Milkmaker | Alicia Daw
To understand my journey of breastfeeding, you have to first understand my mentality coming into motherhood. I am what most would call a relaxed mom. Being nearly 33 as a FTM, and the eldest of 11, I had quite a bit of experience. I came into motherhood with a few ideals, but mostly just a solid foundation of how I knew I would parent and what things I would value. If there were two things that, from the start, I knew I wanted it was a homebirth and being able to breastfeed for a minimum of 1 year.
As fate would have it, my chunky boy decided to flip breech the day before I was due to have him, and although we had an external version scheduled for the following morning after we found out, I went into labor right on his due date. Upon that first contraction, I knew immediately that all my homebirth hopes had gone out the window and that I would be forced to have a cesarean, due to safety reasons. I was devastated but at peace.
The cesarean recovery was so much more challenging than I ever could have imagined, and in those early weeks of working out the kinks of breastfeeding the only thing that kept me going was the fact that I was so disappointed with my birth story that I wasn't about to also be disappointed by my inability to feed my son. We dealt with it all right from the start - weight loss (3oz/week for the first 5 weeks), raw nipples, hindmilk/foremilk issues. I remember at one point trying to get Alex to nurse as he was bright red and screaming, and me looking at my mom, bursting into tears and exclaiming "WHY ISN'T THIS WORKING?!?!" I felt like I was failing because so many things had gone so polar opposite of how I had hoped they would go.
But I was nothing if not persistent. I knew that if I stopped breastfeeding at 3, 6, 9 or 12 weeks that I would be really disappointed in myself and regret it. So, together, we persevered. We finally worked out a good little routine of pumping through the day, and nursing only at night. Each of the first three months of his life I remember thinking to myself "1 month down, 11 to go," "2 months down, 10 to go...". I was hell bent on reaching that 1 year mark, come hell or high water. Finally around month 3 we found our groove.
I still didn't enjoy nursing, at all. It was a nuisance, and it was uncomfortable. But we had our groove, he was gaining weight, he was happy, and I knew it was the best thing for him. It wasn't until Alex was around 6 months old that I started actually enjoying nursing him. It took that long, because our start was so challenging. And then somewhere around 9 months I became so emotional over the idea that we would be stopping in 3 months. I cried every time I nursed him because I couldn't believe something we had worked so hard for, together, would be coming to an end shortly.
There is a good chance he will be our only child, so that magnified my emotional response to things ending soon. Somewhere around 10 months I finally pulled myself together and realized that just because we would make it to 1 year didn't mean that's when we had to stop. What a novel thought, haha.
Now here we are, at our goal of 1 year, and I can honestly say that of all the things I've done in life (5 days foot-treks into the jungles of Asia, Tough Mudder, and other physically challenging things), that breastfeeding was the hardest. It took more perseverance and determination than I ever thought I would need but I can honestly say that it is the one thing I am most proud of in my life.
If you are a new mom, struggling through those early weeks or months of nursing, then I want to say one thing to you: It's worth pushing through. It's worth the pain. It's worth the tears. BUT if you decide to quit? Don't regret it or one second and don't ever feel like you deprived your baby. Loving that baby and feeding him or her well - no matter what kind of milk - is the best thing you can do as a mother.