Before I start this article I want to state for the record that I really believe in both natural birth and breastfeeding, they just weren’t meant to be for me. By sharing what I learnt from my experiences I hope that this will help give comfort to women who are struggling after having a baby, whatever challenges they are facing.
My first baby was back to back and was born eventually after a 4 day labour by emergency caesarean. Thanks to getting fit before the birth and having a degree of understanding about Innate Health I was able to see the labour as a moment by moment experience and not be fearful about it. Therefore I was fine about the birth and had no negative thinking or feelings about it afterwards. It was the shock of trying to breastfeed and not being able to that really affected me.
I was so exhausted from the birth I wasn’t producing enough milk so he got jaundice in hospital and I had to start topping him up with formula. We took him home and I sought out lots of breastfeeding support and started on the road of obsessively pumping through the night to try and produce more milk to satisfy his ever increasing needs. In the meantime we fed him via various methods from cups to finger feeding (with a syringe) a mix of formula and breast milk. In the meantime I became so determined to breastfeed to the extent that this became my focus to the detriment of my relationship with my baby and my husband.
Unfortunately all this thinking and obsessing about breastfeeding really affected my state of mind to the degree that I didn’t speak to my friends or really leave the house for about 5 weeks until after he was born. Eventually I felt I couldn’t try anymore and so gave up. This left me feeling very guilty and upset that I had let my baby down for a long time after, as I felt I had not been able to provide for my baby in a natural way. Eventually after about a year a half of seeing my baby was just as healthy as everyone else’s I made peace with myself about it and realised the baby would be absolutely fine.
I have since spoken to mothers who have breastfed successfully but found it very difficult for various reasons, be it mastitis or whatever complications, who managed to carry on but also felt equally effected by the experience. Someone even told me they had extreme feelings of guilt having breast fed successfully for one year but had to give up because they had to go back to work.
With my second baby I tried again for a natural birth but never went into labour so ended up with another cesarean. Again my baby fed well in hospital but was too hungry and I couldn’t provide what he needed so I had to top up with formula. Again I got breastfeeding support and again I hired a pump and pumped when I could. The difference was that this time I realised that maintaining a healthy state of mind and building the bond with my baby as well as looking after my toddler was more important than obsessing about breastfeeding. I did what I could when I could but to no avail, so I ended up with another bottle fed baby. I made peace with myself very quickly this time because I realised I was only hurting myself with my thinking about feeling guilty and he would be absolutely fine.
The reason I’m writing this is to say that it’s not breastfeeding or bottle feeding that is the problem. It’s what we do to ourselves by taking our thinking and ‘our beliefs’ so seriously and judging ourselves that’s the problem. While I experienced the prejudices of people against bottle feeding I know breastfeeding mothers experience prejudice about their choices as well. We can internalise this and get upset about it or we can just let it wash over us and let it pass, because the more we internalise it and take it seriously the more we are hurting ourselves and no one else.
This experience helped me to see that beliefs are just thinking that we take very seriously. They are not right or wrong. As Grayson Perry says in one of his tapestries ‘Hold your beliefs lightly’. – This is something that thanks to this experience I am learning to do.
When you care passionately about something and life doesn’t work out for you in the way that you’d anticipated, it’s very compelling to beat yourself up for it, which leads to enduring feelings of guilt. By doing this you are only hurting yourself and prolonging the pain. If you can learn to accept that we all do the best we can in any given moment (given what we know at the time) and that none of us are ultimately in control, no matter how much we’d like to be. – Then you can make peace with circumstances you find difficult in your life rather than keeping them alive with your thinking and prolonging your pain.
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If what I’ve written resonates with you and you would like some postnatal support via Skype or in person get in touch to find out about one-to-one sessions either by calling me on 07901 514 113 or filling out the form below.