“I’m not breastfeeding anymore.”
“I’m not breastfeeding anymore,” I would say.
The long pause. The nod. The silence, as if waiting for more.
Every time, I tried to figure out how to get out of the conversation without breaking into tears. I found myself answering questions that they hadn’t even asked. I launched into explanations of how hard I tried, how often I nursed her, and the types of interventions we used. The two weeks of devastating insomnia, the miniscule yield from pumping sessions, her weight loss, my descent into hell.
And then I would end with, “But really, medically there’s a problem with me. My milk never really came in. Really, I didn’t have any engorgement. I have thyroid issues, so that’s probably what caused it.”
But no matter how convincing I thought I was, I was embarrassed to even talk about the issue because of an oft-repeated statistic about how nearly every healthy woman can produce enough milk for her baby. Only one to five percent of women are not able to produce enough milk for their babies, I had read over and over again in breastfeeding literature.
And that was how I was asking others to view me—as a person as uncommon as someone who grows scales instead of skin.
Me. The person who believed in the power of her own body. Who had just given birth without medication. Who believed that if she just listened to her body, that it would do what it needed to do.
Me. The person who was convinced that all problems with breastfeeding could be solved with knowledgeable interventions and perseverance.
Me. The person who was disciplined and persistent enough to kickbox and portion-control her way to a size six.
Me. That person.
Suddenly, it seemed that all of those qualities that I had spent a lifetime practicing were not true anymore. That freshly crafted identity as a strong, capable mother was now unraveling fast.
So underneath my explanations for why I wasn’t breastfeeding, my tone was desperate. It screamed: Please, please, everyone! Please just believe that I’m a medical anomaly, defective on the inside. I’m not stupid, or uninformed, or lazy, or selfish. I’m just broken, everyone. That’s why I’m formula feeding, not because I chose it!