When I was pregnant, the concept of breastfeeding was not one that I was comfortable with. The “girls” had always been reserved for my husband and I was in no hurry to add another customer into the mix. Plus, the descriptions found in how-to blogs and articles made me cringe at every direction. “Tease his/her lower lip with your nipple.” “Let his/her tongue massage the areola.” Uh, yeah, no thanks. Was this my first interaction with my newborn or an episode of the Red Shoe Diaries? The whole thing seemed certifiably creepy. Not to mention the pre-pregnancy feeling I had gotten when witnessing others breastfeed in public. Yeah, ma’am, could you kindly put your sex organs away? I didn’t come for the live show.
Nevertheless, I had every intention on breastfeeding, simply because I was well-versed in the benefits it provided for both me and the baby. I knew it was the best way to provide her with the antibodies necessary to guard against infection and I knew that it lowered my chances for certain forms of cancer. Last, but certainly not least, I knew that the ladies looked phenomenal, and I didn’t hate the idea of those milk-filled fun bags hanging around for another year. After all, in the wake of the horrors of pregnancy and childbirth, my husband deserved some kind of reward, didn’t he? So breastfeeding remained firmly in my plans. I just wasn’t happy about it.
Then something funny happened. Somewhere between being sliced open on the operating table and holding my baby for the first time, I got this itch. I wanted — no, NEEDED — to have her latched onto my boob. I kept asking the doctors when I’d be able to breastfeed her. It was an insatiable urge that would only be satisfied by the suction of a tiny human. It came out of nowhere and thoroughly caught me by surprise, though I chalked it up in large part to the influence of morphine. Only once I was discharged and the IV of drugs had long since been removed (tear), I still felt the same way. I even found myself balking when my husband would suggest offering her formula so that I could have a beer (mmm beer). I’m sorry hubs, I can have a beer (possibly even two) and still breastfeed. That’s why I bought the Milkscreen alcohol detection strips. In bulk. And sure it may be “frowned upon,” but if I happen to be a tad bit above the recommended limit, I’m sure it’ll just act as an effective sleep aid. Kidding, of course. Sort of.
Point being, somewhere between seeing and holding Brooke for the first time, I fell in love with breastfeeding. There’s something remarkably powerful about being able to provide for your child the only nutrition she could possibly need, and there’s something even more powerful in the look behind her eyes as she gazes into yours during a feeding. It became a time of bonding…and by that, I mean a time where I could surf Facebook on my phone uninterrupted. And yes, hormonally-induced or not, the act was accompanied by those same feelings of affinity and attachment that I had read so much about throughout the course of her gestation. All of those silly and now seemingly petty concerns that I previously had vanished before my OBGYN had even had the chance to sew me up. In my fight against nature and all of the women before me who had succumbed to it, I had lost. Maternal instinct by TKO.
Now, that’s not to say that the experience has come without its challenges. In the early stages, my nipples were devoured with such ferocity that I was convinced that I hadn’t given birth to a human, but to a very human-like velociraptor. My nightmares those first couple weeks featured Jurassic Park on loop. And the growth spurts? Each time she hits one, I’m convinced that she’s possessed. Either that or she’s auditioning for a role in the latest Jaws movie, with the amount of thrashing she does at the breast. Still, each day is a little less painful than the last and only reinforces my belief that I made the right choice in how I’ve elected to feed her.
Before I continue, I want to make one thing clear: there is nothing wrong with formula feeding. I respect the decision that each mother makes in deciding what’s best for her respective family. I just want those pregnant women who are apprehensive about breastfeeding or those new moms who are in those tough early stages to know that it does get better and that the benefits you will reap will more than justify the obstacles you have to surmount. This has been a surprisingly rewarding experience, and I’m shocked to find myself on the same page as all of those mothers whom I previously thought I’d never understand. Seriously, the next time I see a woman who’s treating the mall like a trip to Mardi Gras, I’ll be the first to toss her a strand of beads in a showing of solidarity; though I think I’ll stick to covering up myself. For now though, I’ll continue to thank the milk Gods for making this such a seamless transition for us both and enjoy the benefits that come from sharing this experience with my daughter. Until she starts walking, of course. Then I’ll have to wean, because having a walking human on my breast is a concept that I am simply not comfortable with.
Though I’ll be happy to be proven wrong once again.