There's nothing like a sweet little breastfeeding baby nestled in a sling to evoke a myriad emotions. Even guilt.
For many women, the inability to breastfeed, for whatever reason, makes them feel guilty, that they're somehow less than a woman, a wimp even, who is depriving their child of nutrients, vitamins, the IQ they'll need to get them into Harvard.
Or something like that.
I was a breastfeeding martyr with my first daughter. Scabbed bleeding nipples. A Total Elimination Diet for a year.
It was nuts. I was nuts.
I finally sort of maybe convinced myself that we'd all be okay if I couldn't breastfeed my son for as long. Or even at all.
It turned out that my martyrdom was a result of poor support and education. And lack of knowledge about challenging and sometimes downright horrible parts of breastfeeding.
And it was also from this idea that I had to be the sacrifical mother in order to be a good mother.
I've heard people say that if we shared all the hard parts of labor, of breastfeeding, of mothering that no one would want to do it.
I say that if we share all of this, then we'd all be happier moms.
With Margot, I noticed a feeling of emptiness and depression every single time I nursed. At first, I thought I was going nuts. But then, after reading and asking around, I realized that I wasn't just making it up. And it wasn't until I had Bridget and experienced the same feelings that I learned it had a name - Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex.
For me personally, it was decreased just by awareness as well as an increase in physical activity and weight loss. Many other women don't have as easy a resolution. Others stop breastfeeding.
And for that I don't judge them. In fact, in many ways, I admire them.
The challenge I face as a mother is allowing myself to be an important part of the parent - child equation. When I'm healthy and happy, my kids are better off. I can be a smarter, stronger parent and a good example for them.
When I'm suffering, I'm miserable. And it's not worth it.
That all sounds good. I preach it. But I struggle every single day with making that a reality.
Regardless of what the studies say about immunities and health benefits and intelligence, if you're not able to functionally care for your children, it doesn't matter.
Because, most importantly, you need to be present for them. In both senses of the word.
This doesn't mean I think moms shouldn't try to breastfeed. Nor that they should give up when it gets a little tricky or challenging. I'm the first to tell moms that breastfeeding gets so much easier at six months. And even easier again after 12 months.
I've breastfed for a total of 56 months and counting.
But I will say that it's important to value your own health and well-being. And to know your limits.
You and your child will be much better off with you feeding them from a bottle with a smile than breastfeeding through agony and tears. I wish that we could change the dialogue from "pro-breastfeeding" or "anti-formula" to "pro-mom."
That's not necessarily what many breastfeeding advocates may want to hear.
But I strongly believe it's a voice that needs to be amplified. Especially in my own damn head.