Looking back on this photo brought back so many memories of those first few months as a mother, the fear, the love and the excruciating pain I went through every single feed.
I was told breastfeeding was going to be the most natural thing a mother could do for her baby.
It did not come naturally to me.
I was told that it may hurt for a bit but the longer I persisted the easier it would become and I’d feed like an old pro.
I never became a pro, not with number 1 not with 2 or 3 and not with 4.
I was told I was clearly exaggerating the pain, that if I just relaxed a little bit and let her attach properly that it wouldn’t be half as bad.
I could never relax, I watched the clock between every single feed and the closer her feeding time cane the more I worked myself up and the more hysterical I became.
I was told that I could feed through mastitis, in fact I SHOULD feed through it because my baby deserved my breast milk much more than I needed to not scream out in pain and beg my mum or my best friend to help me get her on because I could not physically bring her soft little head to my breast.
I woke up one morning to the sound of her crying and stared at my nipples in the mirror, they were ripped, raw, bleeding and the veins were dark and raised. I didn’t recognise my own body.
I stood there sobbing listening to my baby cry just wishing that I was the woman I was told I should be, the woman I was meant to be and doubting myself and my ability to care for my beautiful little girl.
I had failed her.
I had failed myself.
My body had failed me.
I plunged into a deep depression at the thought that I was doing my daughter wrong and I asked for help but I was told to persevere because real women put their baby first so push through, just keep pushing!
I kept pushing through and with each feed I fell deeper into depression and produced less milk and felt like more of a failure and my baby just kept crying.
My mother and best friend told me to stop feeding, they cried watching me sob every time she had to feed but the nurses and midwives insisted I was doing the right thing.
One day my partner walked in and woke me up to ask me if I wanted toast and tea except it wasn’t my partner it was my mother and she was coming in to take my temperature which had spiked and I was hallucinating, the dr at the hospital was shocked to see the mess of my nipples and the mastitis was horrendous.
That was the day I gave my baby a bottle of formula which she drank like she had never tasted food milk before. She had been so hungry for too long getting very little milk and blood from my breast.
I felt guilty for days.
People asked me Why did I stop feeding?
Why couldn’t I persevere?
Why didn’t it come easily to me as a mother?
‘It’s because she is a young mother’ I heard a nurse say, I was young and naive so I said nothing. I stayed silent and sobbed at my inability to put my daughter first.
I felt selfish and cruel at my lack of motherly love and instinct.
A few days after that I was diagnosed with PND (and eventually with bipolar disorder) and started on the right medication and within weeks I felt like a different person, I was whole again even though I couldn’t breastfeed I knew that I had done the right thing for my baby.
She LOVED food!
She was happy and healthy and I was so relaxed that I bonded with her in a completely new way that was so pure and so beautiful that just looking at her would leave me in tears.
I would rock on the rocking chair with her in my arms for hours singing her songs and counting her 10 tiny fingers and her 10 tiny toes and I’d feed her a bottle and wouldn’t feel an ounce of guilt because we hear breast is best but only I knew what was best for my baby girl and what was best for her was a mumma who was happy and calm.
What was best for her was to be FED.
Much love and light