This is a bit of a diversion from my usual topics. Or rather, it’s a topic I touched on my other, more specific blog. It’s about breastfeeding.
Now I have significant issues breastfeeding. I could, not too many questions asked, flash the unable to breastfeed card. I meet those qualifications. However, due to my own pigheadedness I breastfed anyhow. It sucks but I figured out how to manage it. And because of the nature of the issues there comes a point where things become normal for the baby’s age. For us that happens around seven-eight months. After that things are essentially normal. And really you would never know that we had issues at all. Which brings me to my fraudulent feelings.
I breastfeed Thing 2 (who is now a year old) out in public as required. And sometimes people chat to me about it. And often people chat to me about their own inability to breastfeed. And I’m not even sure what to say. Do I say, oh yes. I couldn’t breastfeed either (with a one year old snuggled into my boob)? Do I say, oh yes, we had to use a tube taped to my breast to give her formula for seven months? Do I act like a normal nursing mother and make a sympathetic noise? Yeah, that’s usually what I end up doing. I’ve tried the other responses and have gotten funny and awkwardly uncomfortable looks as expected. But I feel really shitty doing that. Because we did have big problems. The thing is I don’t know that other mother’s situation and she doesn’t know mine. I am of the opinion that with proper support and education more people can breastfeed than currently think they are able to. Probably not me though. I’ve thrown whatever support I can at this. But I don’t know what that other mother went through and it’s not my place to judge how hard or what she tried. She did what she could with what she knew at the time and she cared about doing the right thing, whatever that was, for herself and her baby.
But I still feel like a fraud.
I never want to even hint at “I could, why couldn’t you?”. I really don’t, because I’ve had that thrown in my face. Unfortunately I know that by existing I do throw that up a little. I think if I had stopped breastfeeding and met someone with similar struggles who got through it I would feel judged. I would be the one judging myself, but I would project it out as coming from others, because how could they not be thinking that even a little? I know that the feeling is really “why you and not me?” but all twisted around and ugly and sad.
All I really can do is be sympathetic, because I know that grief and sadness of being unable, and now people see me and they make a judgement that since I am still breastfeeding my one year old that I didn’t struggle and I don’t know. It’s a bad judgement. Just as bad as anyone judging a mother for giving a baby a bottle, or making the assumption that giving up or not trying happened. I want to say that all that matters is the now, but how we got here is important as well because it shapes us. But for now I am a breastfeeding mother, who could not breastfeed. But having people talk to me wistfully about how they didn’t meet their goals really upsets me. I want to say, me too. me too, But I’m guessing the assumption would be that if I’m still doing it now then it wasn’t all that bad. And it wasn’t for me. More, it’s that I can imagine worse things, and it didn’t stay bad until now. It was manageable. I did it. It was horrible and I hate it and it’s stressful and I cry and loathe myself for the failings in my body, but I can do it. I don’t know why I can, but I can. I also fully respect anyone who can’t or stops in the face of those circumstances because I don’t know how I can. It’s hard. Really hard. I imagine sawing off my own arm would be comparatively easier because at least then you get some endorphins kicking in and it doesn’t go on for months. And if you sawed off your own arm people would know that you had seen some shit.
Truthfully as my baby gets older I forget the intense misery of those first months. I know I hate it and I know I’m not looking forward to doing it again and I know I will do it again. It’s like forgetting the misery of pregnancy. Bad brain. Bad!