Everyone knows things do not always go according to plan. As strong women, we come up with several plans in case the first one or two do not pan out as desired. I am the type of woman who always finds the positive in the negative, yet when my dream of being able to exclusively breastfeed my baby boy came to a screeching halt, I could not find the positive.
From the moment a woman finds out she is pregnant, she is bombarded with information and advice from some well-meaning people on how to have a healthy pregnancy, to have the right kind of birth, whether to breastfeed or not, and other things like vaccinations. I remember from the moment I saw that second line appear on the pregnancy test, I was sure I would breastfeed my baby. Women do it all the time, I was told. It’s natural, and I have seen all of the women in my family breastfeed with ease.
After fighting hard to have the birth experience I wanted, I made sure that when I was finally able to hold my baby in my arms, I would let him breastfeed right away. As I suspected, he latched on like a champ. I nearly burst with the warmth and love inside of me for my baby, knowing that my body was able to feed him and allow him to grow strong.
A few days after my son was born, my milk had not come in. My baby was starting to show signs of hunger even after nursing just twenty minutes beforehand. So many people were urging me to give my baby formula by saying, “Some women just cannot breastfeed.” I began to lose the confidence in my body that I had finally attained after 25 years of self-criticism. I did not want to see my baby go hungry, and I was so heartbroken that my body was failing me.
Many sleepless nights and tears followed, I would nurse my baby when my milk finally came in, but he remained hungry. I made lactation cookies and smoothies, took fenugreek, drank mother’s milk tea, and even tried pumping to increase supply. Pumping was the most difficult thing I encountered, and I would barely get an ounce, sometimes two if I were lucky, from both breasts during one pumping session. However, when I would give my baby a bottle of formula, he would be completely satisfied. I realized before long that I felt incredibly pressured by society to not formula feed. Going to the store to pick out an organic formula was embarrassing to me because I felt like other mothers in the store would judge me, without knowing my problem with low supply.
In public at places like the park or library, I would receive the same disapproving glances from women, whether I was struggling to keep my baby covered while he nursed, or giving him a bottle of formula. I realized no matter how I fed my baby; someone would always have an opinion on each method. I had an epiphany at that moment, and realized instead of being hard on myself about my supply, I should be celebrating that I can breastfeed at all. I needed to take a step back and look at how much my baby was growing and how strong he was getting, from both breast milk and formula. His smiles and laughs everyday prove to me that I am his hero, I am enough for him, he sees me as his comfort, his food, and his happiness. I felt empowered as a woman after reaching that epiphany, more so than after giving birth to him.
Things usually do not go according to plan, especially when it comes to motherhood. I finally have my positive outlook again and feel ready to face any adversity that comes my way in the journey of motherhood. I feel so compelled to reach out to other women who are going through the same thing and let them know it will be alright. Now, more than ever, women need to bring each other up, instead of tearing each other down for going about a different path and method that will bring us to the end result we all want as mothers, happy children who become happy adults. I can finally say that I love my body, and all of the amazing things it does and is capable of doing. That is true empowerment in my eyes.