“Invented in the mid-1800′s as a last-ditch option for orphans and underweight babies, packaged infant formula has since been perfected to be a complete and reliable source of stress and shame for mothers.” -Tina Fey, Bossypants
I do not produce breastmilk.
I figured I’d better come clean on this whole subject since some of you may see Vivi drinking formula out of bottles in a few days.
Ironically this is World Breastfeeding Week.
Chances are there are other women like me out there who see all of this PRO BREASTFEEDING! and GO TEAM MILK BOOBS! talk and feel a rock in their stomach like I do.
The assumption of a bottle feeding mother is hardly ever a good one. Generally the assumption that tops the list is that she gave up. Or that she’s selfish. Or lazy.
I can assure you that bottle feeding does not a lazy/selfish life enable. I have to be twice as prepared when I leave the house because I do not make milk on demand.
Did I give up? Sure, I guess you could call it that if you want to. But I gave up knowing that for eight weeks I did anything and EVERYTHING I could to promote milk production. Vivi had a latch and patience breastfeeding mothers dream of.
I wanted this to work so bad you guys.
But my body…it didn’t oblige.
Many bodies out there don’t produce what comes naturally to so many others. Some bodies don’t produce enough tears, some bodies don’t produce enough insulin, some bodies don’t produce enough estrogen, some bodies don’t produce sweat, some bodies don’t produce sperm and some bodies don’t produce babies.
Just because someone has all the parts doesn’t mean they all work in harmony (or at all.)
But a body that doesn’t produce breastmilk is the only one that is judged both openly and silently on a fairly regular basis.
Can you imagine someone who suffers from dry eye syndrome being accosted for putting eye drops in their eyes? “Those have chemicals in them! THEY ARE UNNATURAL! What, are you so selfish that you can’t bother to cry your own tears? Your eyes are going to be damaged, don’t you care?”
(I realize the ratio of people who think this way is 1:100, but that one. They are loud.)
I stuck with it. Eight weeks day and night. I did outrageous things for outrageous lengths of time at outrageous hours. People would say “I don’t know how you’re doing it.” I would respond “I can’t not, I’ll know when it’s time to be done and now isn’t the time.”
One morning I looked at a tiny baby Vivi and I said “Baby, I don’t make enough what you need. I’m sorry. I did my best.” She gave me a gummy little smile and I knew it would be okay.
That day I didn’t take fenugreek, domperidone, goat’s rue, More Milk Plus, drink my tea, wear an SNS or pump.
I never made another drop of milk.
There was no tapering. No drying up.
There was nothing. No evidence that I had ever even tried aside from the breastfeeding paraphernalia at the side of my bed.
I was never able to satiate her with breastmilk. Not even once. Not even after spending a week straight in bed doing nothing but everything I was supposed to be doing. I never leaked. I never let down. I never engorged. I never pumped more than an ounce. Combined. All day.
Those first eight weeks went so fast.
Every moment was spent trying to make more milk. Every time I nursed her I would think “This has to be it, this has to be the time I’m able to fill her up.”
That time never came.
These last four weeks have been spent settling into our new routine and mourning the loss of breastfeeding.
Vivi is easily the most loved baby to ever exist. We crowd around her daily, fighting over who loves her more. She fits into our family so perfectly. Her little spirit is exactly what we never knew we were missing. Will I ever not feel a tinge of jealously when I see another mom breastfeeding? Maybe. Maybe not.
My boobs don’t work. But my heart does.
And it belongs to this little girl and her big sister. (And the guy who helped me make them for a few glorious seconds.)