This is the title of our latest podcast. However, it could be the title of so many people’s breastfeeding stories. But why does it take “overcoming the odds” to achieve something that is the essence of being a mammal?
One of the biggest obstacles to breastfeeding, IMO, is the birth. I know it was for me and my first baby. You can listen to my 1st breastfeeding story to hear all about that nonsense. My birth was such a disaster that by day 5, I was done. I saw no hope for breastfeeding which I had had every intention of doing. Formula feeding was not even in my scope of how you fed babies. Thankfully, I had people around me who reached out and got the help I needed which, literally, changed my life.
I think that when we don’t have the birth we planned on, for me I had planned a natural birth with little intervention, the breastfeeding success or failure becomes larger than life. It’s like, I failed at birth, but by god, I will breastfeed! With the same determination as Scarlett O’hara declaring she will, “never be hungry again!” we attack breastfeeding like a crazy zealot feeling like harder work will take us to our goal. Making breastfeeding successful becomes the ultimate test of…womanhood? Mothering? And if we don’t cut the mustard, well, that says a lot about us.
Our birth experience can be really scary. We can be afraid for our health or the health of our baby. We can worry that either of us might die. We feel completely out of control. Hmm…that sounds like a perfect recipe for PTSD. What? Post traumatic stress disorder from birth? Yeah. I didn’t realize this is what had happened to me. All I knew was I wasn’t too fond of my new little baby (that I desperately wanted before he showed up). I remember telling my husband at 6ish weeks postpartum that I was sorry I had ruined our lives, I keep having mild panic attacks, and was so, so, depressed. This all passed with time but it’s not a happy memory.
When I was expecting my second baby, a dear friend of mine who is a therapist suggested that I needed to heal from my first birth before my second. I honestly had no idea what she was talking about. She explained that every time I talked about my first birth, I cried and became so sad. I took her up on her offer to help me with this. She spent one session with me to work on my birth with my son, Colin. At first I cried and cried. But then I got really angry. Angry that I didn’t know to birth with midwives and doulas, angry that the nurses (the doctor was no where to be seen) had no ideas as to how to help me with the pain from my back labor, that my poor husband who is a man who has never had a baby was way out of his league (duh). Angry at the hospital that was only too happy to give me drugs and interventions, at the choices I made that led to my son having transitional breathing difficulties that led to him being transferred to a different hospital, and then, then, I was so angry at my son. That poor little babe, for scaring the bejesus out of me. I am tearing up right now remembering all of the emotions. I was furious with Colin for scaring me to death. Oh. When I realized that my tears were covering up my anger and fear, I could let go of all of those emotions and be excited for this new baby. We had a whole other birth story and breastfeeding story with my second.
So, back to the breastfeeding. I think I was so demoralized by my failure at birth, and honestly exhausted as well by a postpartum uterine infection, that I didn’t believe I could breastfeed. I had lost my blind faith that had been present before my birth. My faith that breastfeeding is designed to work.
This is why I do the work I do. When people have lost their faith, need guidance when they have run out of ideas, I am there. I am a believer! Our birth stories are just one of so many outside challenges we have in our culture that stand in the way of what is normal and so very mammal. Pain, bad advice, nay sayers, lack of support, and returning to work are just a few. This is why we have to “overcome the odds”. Because they are stacked against us.