There were 99 things I was looking forward to when I found out I was pregnant (when I finally accepted that I was pregnant) and breastfeeding was not one. I have to admit; I wasn’t thrilled at the idea of having 5 people hanging off my tits (Crooklyn reference) but I was willing to open up and at least do some research. I can’t remember how I got the book What to Expect but I had it. It scared the crap out of me. Not the breast-feeding part but pregnancy in general. I was absolutely terrified that an actual human being would come out of my lady parts. There were so many things that could go wrong that I never thought I wouldn’t take a liking to breastfeeding.
As the time to deliver neared, each doctor’s appointment I was asked about my birth plan. There were things I knew I wanted and didn’t want. I didn’t want a bazillion people in the delivery room with me. I wanted to make sure there was skin to skin bonding. Each time, I was asked about breastfeeding. There weren’t any questions on the subject, just strong suggestions. I was apprehensive, to say the least, but I didn’t speak up. Maybe I should have. I had no frame of reference. We selected all of the cute and highly suggestion items for our baby registry. Among the items was a breastfeeding pump and all of the accessories. The more and more I heard all of the unsolicited advice, I mustered up the courage to give this foreign notion a whirl.
Baby boy was born. After the oohs and ahhs the nurses placed him in my arms and the lactation nurse immediately grabbed my breast, helped me to latch him on and boom… there were, nursing. Or so I thought. After the night passed, my son had yet to wet a diaper. Wait! You mean to tell me that after 12 hours after being born this beautiful newborn baby hasn’t had any nourishment? They sent the lactation nurse in my room with a handheld breast pump. I pumped and pumped. Nothing. She left and returned with an industrial electric pump. Nothing. My nurses were set on baby boy getting mommy’s breast milk, but nothing was coming out. “You’re just dry”, one nurse told me. Oh, gee thanks! Discouragement set in but I was secretly relieved.
By nature, I am not a quitter (without a fight). As we settled in at home, after our extended stay at the hospital, I was determined to give this nursing thing one more shot. I scoured mommy sites for advice and suggestions. I changed my diet, bought some sort of tea and waited to be dripping. Wrong again. There were drops but they weren’t dripping in excess. Whatever I was able to pump out still wasn’t enough, so I had to supplement with formula. A month or so of putting in a whole bunch of effort and receiving minimal in return, I quit. I was frustrated and exhausted. Breastfeeding was hard, time-consuming, unproductive and quite frankly it made me feel like a cow. I didn’t like it. I tried.
Once we switched over to just formula, I hadn’t given my decision much thought. I was able to go to work and not have to think about where I would pump. Outings weren’t interrupted with me pulling out all of my nursing gear because the baby was hungry. I was never engorged with milk, so I didn’t experience any discomfort. My baby was healthy. I was thrilled about my decision, until an encounter with a cashier at Costco. My mother suggested buying formula at Costco; a cost-effective suggestion. She was right. It was less expensive. I purchased a few other items. The cashier made no sudden movements while ringing up the other items. Once she got to the formula, she paused. In the most judgmental tone, she asked, “You’re not breastfeeding?” It was at that exact moment I had to decide if I was going to turn into the Petty Pendergrass I know I can be or kill her with kindness. “Um no, that’s why I am buying formula”. Petty? She went to lend her unsolicited advice and tell me how she as still breast-feeding her four-year-old daughter. I just smiled, nodded, took my items and headed to get a slice of pizza. Costco pizza smacks!
I didn’t give that opinionated lady at Costco much thought. I went on about my days of not having to whip out my boob at the most inconvenienced time, pump packing for work or worrying about the whole pump and dump thing. Sadly, she was the first of many mommies who opposed my formula feeding. And initially, I didn’t care because… Jimmy cracked corn. I am not sure what it was but this whole breast-feeding thing rode in on the same train as the rest of the mommy guilt I started to experience. I parked that train though. My son is fine. He’s healthy and growing just fine. There is nothing to feel guilty about.
To say the least, this whole motherhood thing is interesting all by itself. When the outside opinions of others who don’t matter are added it can a little murky. I am learning that like most things in life, motherhood is personal. There isn’t one manual that can give you all the rights and the wrongs for your individual mommy-hood experience. If each pregnancy is different from one mother, then surely it varies from mother to mother. If allowed, it’s really easy to succumb to the comparisons and contrasting of motherhood. Mothers talk to each other all the time. Some offer advice, some revel in what new milestone their little one has completed, and some swear by their mothering and won’t accept any other way. I’ve learned the best thing to do while mothering is to mother the best way I can offer my child the best of me as best as I can. It’s not about what others are saying, offering or judging. He’s my child and I am his mother. So what, I did not breastfeed. He’s doing just fine and will continue to be. I am sure I will be met with other overbearing, judgmental, nosy mothers on this mommy journey. Knowing I am doing my best for my child will make the encounter easier to handle.
Have you experienced mommy judgment? How did you handle it?