Lessons from my baby daughter #9.
Let me tell you a secret. I have been guilty of editing my life, of photoshopping out one of the ugliest blemishes in a bid to pretend it doesn’t exist.
I feed my baby girl formula.
I feed her in private or in front of family only and, until now, I have never taken a photograph of Miss L with her bottle.
We had a rocky start to breastfeeding but I was determined to succeed. Miss L spent her first two days in special care being fed my colostrum with a syringe and so, naturally, she thought that like a baby bird all she had to do was open her mouth and squeak. On day five, she finally latched and fed for two hours straight, only for me to collapse that evening and rush off to hospital in the back of an ambulance. Even then, strapped to a gurney and struggling to breathe, I managed to cry out, ‘Don’t feed her formula!’ But, in the end, it was formula she had to be fed.
There is a little bit of shame there, undoubtedly, but mostly there is an unwillingness and mistrust of weighing into the whole breastfeeding debate. You see, in the case of women’s rights to whip that boob out in public and feed their child wherever and whenever they choose, there is the unspoken verdict that any woman who can’t or won’t do the same is somehow less of a mother.
To all the militant breastfeeding Mummas out there proudly displaying your babies and boobs like war medals, well, I salute you. I really do. It’s not always easy and it’s not always comfortable and you have persevered. Well done. Truly. But yours is not the only story.
So before you raise your eyebrow at the Mumma with the tin of formula in the trolley, let me tell you something. You do not know the pain of being told to choose between your own health and your child’s source of food. You do not know the agony of expressing around heart monitors just to ease the pressure and then tipping your precious milk down the drain because it is poisoned by the very medicine keeping you alive. You do not know the sorrow of watching your week old baby throw up time and again as she readjusts to the formula, looking around the bottle for the breast she saw last week. Or the greater sorrow when she finally takes to the formula like a trooper and stops looking for your breast altogether. You do not know the pang of disappointment when you no longer leak milk everywhere and can wear your pretty lingerie again. You do not know the ache of watching others breastfeed in public knowing it will never be you. You do not know, and until you do, please do not point your finger because I feel bad enough all on my own.
And now, I am claiming this image in the hope that I can forgive myself for something outside of my control and learn to treasure the joyful moments of watching my daughter feed, wherever that food comes from.
Because let me assure you, she doesn’t care one bit!