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Blogger Meera is a freelance writer and columnist, dabbling in movies and immigrant challenges. She blogs at http://dreamzwild.wordpress.com
A few months back we welcomed our son, our first born, into this world. The labor was long, relatively routine and painful. I’m still in awe of what my body went through and how it has sprung back. This is the single most grueling feat of my physical existence that I willingly subject myself to. While I went in guns blazing, I came out groaning in pain, exhaustion and bewilderment.
There is a tiny human being placed in my arms and I’m supposed to nourish it exclusively? Yes, yes I’m aware of formula but you see, I decided to breastfeed. I’m dumb like that.
As eager parents-to-be, we took the childbirth and breastfeeding classes our hospital offered and decided early on that we would board the breastfeeding wagon. I was a stay-at-home-wife, masquerading as a writer, so I had no interest in pumping. I shuddered at the thought of having to wash bottles, clean equipment and who was going to feed him while I pumped? Formula was also thrown out of the window. Why substitute store bought stuff for my precious baby, when something more natural, more nourishing was readily available, or in my case gushing out.
This was when I was sleeping for more than 10 hours, waking up to a steaming mug of coffee and platters of home-made delicacies with no wailing infant. I was sashaying in all the love and concern that my parents, husband, neighbor and the stranger in the park bestowed upon me. What I had decided in this ethereal state was going to come back and bite me with a vengeance. I clearly hadn’t thought this through.
The first two days were a breeze. Of course the baby was sucking at my breasts, latching fairly well and nothing hurt. I had been warned of soreness and cracked nipples but when nothing showed up in a week, I thought I had escaped it. How naïve! In a couple of days, they were cracking, sore, red, bruised and there was a baby sucking from it. To top it off, I had a plugged duct which I had to massage vigorously while I took a shower.
Every time the baby cried I nursed, every minute he was awake I nursed, every minute I was awake I nursed. There was a time when all I thought of was nursing – eating, sleeping, walking and talking. My husband was extremely supportive as were my parents. They would even let him cry a little so I could get a couple of more minutes to doze off. The only time I was peaceful was on the potty.
But breastfeeding not only wreaks havoc with your body but screws with your mind as well. The fact that every time the baby cries the mother must be ready to nurse is heartless. This woman has just pushed a 7 lb baby out of her system, is still healing and an emotional wreck. What about her? Every time we step out I am anxious. We could distract him when he gets hungry so we get home sooner, but what about the million needles pricking at my nipples?
When my 4 month old son slept for 8 hours continuously, my husband was ready for a celebration. I took one look at my soaked nightgown, the two rocks hanging on my front and cried myself to sleep. How can mothers who have done this even for a day judge those who wouldn’t want to do it? I could call it postpartum depression but that sounds so clinical. This was personal and ravaging. Why didn’t Oprah come up with a better term?
Having a baby is definitely harder on the mother. There have been a million times I have considered sticking a bottle in his mouth but a rock solid spouse, an understanding parent and sheer stupidity kept me from doing so. Even when my mother insisted that I supplement him so he sleeps better, I subject myself to 4 months of exclusive breastfeeding. For her, I’m the child, for me, he was the child. And so we endure generations of trauma. Any research that claims that 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding is best for the baby must be done by a man.
So I’ve stuck to my decision and the wounds are healing. My baby gives me his toothless grin and I think, maybe it was worth it. But god, once, only once, let the father breastfeed the kid. Then I would have found my peace and we can talk.
Pic credit: Muddy Boots Photo (used under a Creative Commons license)
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Mothers should not be too hard on themselves..I have similar experiences to share with my first baby. With the second one I got smarter and must say happier !
Gauri: Being a first time mom, every decision is discussed to death but I’m slowly getting into the groove 🙂
Thanks for reading the article!
Wow..your article brought back a lot of memories!!
Now that my daughter is 3 years old, i dont seem to remember the sleepless nights and the pain of pumping!!
Good luck to you..
So true….thanks for putting it in words…I guess most of new mums go through this and even more…I did too…at least now I know I shall never judge anyone who plans otherwise!!
I could write a big sequel to this post. I was determined to breastfeed my daughter for one year. But after that i continued to breastfeed just for the reason of “dont-know-how-to-stop-her-from-breastfeeding”. I ended up breastfeeding her till 2 years and 8 months. I have to deliberately stop her since she has evolved so much that she could feed from my two breasts at the same time by pulling and stretching my poor breasts to her mouth comfortably. it was almost 3 years i had a full night sleep of 8 hours. There were episodes of nipple-biting stories where i ended up with fever and a big water resistant band-aid in my nipple and still she was feeding on it. I was a total emotional wreck till i stopped breastfeeding. OMG! i still remember those days…it gives a shiver in my bones. I would strongly suggest new mothers to feed for one year to the max. Please don’t extend beyond that.
I am a ebf mom from last 6 months and 17 days and I can totally relate to this article and the comments underneath… Everyday is like a new challenge ..sometimes the baby won’t nurse n you would worry how he is going to get enough nutrition…in my case he won’t take bottle as well… Sitting for an hour or so feeding my lo by spoon and those pumping everyhour to keep up milk supply days…how I completed each day only I know… N its going on I am reaching a point where to the next doctor visit I am going to ask which formula is better to top feed..the tension constant worrying is not what I can go through daily… It’s best for the baby but happy mommy =happy baby..do it till the time u can do it happily…
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