I was three hours postpartum the first time I felt shamed for my choice. My husband and I were resting comfortably in our room at the hospital. We were playfully bickering over whose turn it was to snuggle our brand new baby boy when the night shift nurse came in to introduce herself and check on us. She cooed over our little guy and asked me how I was feeling. Then, she looked down at her clipboard and looked back up at me with a puzzled frown.
Now, the question itself seemed harmless enough. The tone, however, was another matter entirely. It was almost as if she was certain that her notes from our previous nurse had been incorrect. I smiled tentatively and answered with a hushed, “yes, ma’am.” Her entire demeanor shifted and I braced myself for the inevitable barrage of questions that started with a suspicious
“Is there any medical reason for you not breastfeeding?”
and ended with her asking in an exasperated tone
“Don’t you want to at least *try* to breastfeed your baby?”
She eventually grasped that I had thought long and hard about this decision. What she didn’t realize was, she was the starting point of a scenic tour through the peaks and valleys of mom guilt that I never asked to take part in. Every time somebody feels the need to make a comment on how I am choosing to feed my baby, that horrid little voice in my head starts to make me feel like they are actually saying that (because I don’t feed my child with my nipples) I am somehow less of a mother.
I, like most moms making decisions, had my reasons.
The thing is that this specific reason for this specific decision does, at times, make me feel like less of a mom. I put myself through the wringer trying to breastfeed my older two children. I cried hot tears over unsuccessful latches, sleepless nights, and cracked nipples. Those tears were the turning points in my postpartum journeys that, I believe, began my two battles with postpartum depression. I spent the majority of my older children’s first years feeling inadequate and worthless.
And I was bound and determined that I was going to enjoy my postpartum experience with my last baby.
So if that meant that I needed to choose my battles, I would. If that meant that I needed to put down the breast pump and pick up that tiny Dr. Brown bottle, I would. There would be plenty more battles to come and this was one I was choosing not to fight. As a result, my postpartum experience with this baby has been a night-and-day difference from what I experienced with his siblings. You see, all the breast milk in the world wouldn’t do my son any good if his mama was not mentally stable or happy. So tonight, I will whisper, “cheers,” as I clink my glass of wine against my son’s formula-filled bottle and feel hard-earned joy in the idea that breast is not always best.