At long last, this is the breastfeeding post I've been talking about doing for about two months now. I'm sure that sentence will serve to drive away quite a few of you because who really gives a shit about breastfeeding if you're not doing it currently or very near to trying it? I wouldn't have before. Ah well. This is my catharsis, and I hope that at some stage a woman reads this and feels a little less guilty if she is unable to breastfeed. Yup, that's me...patron saint of disenfranchised breastfeeding failures everywhere.
I've already told some of the story when I discussed P.'s birth and labour tale. Though I tried constantly to get P. to latch on properly for the week we were in the hospital, it never worked. I ended up pumping and was confident that I would be able to keep this up for as long as necessary. The Dude went out and bought a fancy electronic pump, and by the time I was sent home I was gradually getting over the disappointment of not being able to breastfeed. I thought that I was doing the next best thing for the baby and it still proved that I was trying to make an effort for this to work, even if it was not by the most conventional means.
When you decide to exclusively pump, you walk into a world that requires you to be a slave to the vile little electric creature. Not only do you need to look after a new being that needs you all the time, you must find time to sit in a chair, squeeze your tit into the phlange (what a horrible word) and pump like hell for 30-45 minutes at least 6 times a day. Many pumping moms do it every 2 hours, but fuuuuuck that. I managed about 6 on most days and that was a major trial. Thinking of doing it twice that amount, well...my poor boobs are wincing at the mere thought.
Now, you would think that such dedication would demand respect, right? No such luck for the pumping ladies I'm afraid. Rather than being in awe of the sheer dedication required, all I heard was how I should be breastfeeding, and "Hey, have you thought about breastfeeding?". You know, that rather new invention? I mentioned how my Mom harped on about the breastfeeding issue, this despite the fact that she witnessed me chained to the pump in between changing dirty nappies, consoling a crying baby, and giving bottles. All of this on very little sleep.
Everyone had advice, and apparently even after 9 weeks of pumping, people still feel the need to weigh in. I took P. for her first round of immunisations yesterday, and the nurse just couldn't help herself. "This isn't my place, but have you tried breastfeeding again?", she said slyly before I punched her in her stupid face. If you don't feel it's your place, SHUT THE FUCK UP. My ears are ready to fall off with all the breastfeeding crap that comes from all directions. Everyone has an opinion, and for some strange reason they feel as if it is fine to judge me for my decision regarding my own child. The most amazing thing is that they must feel as if I care and want to hear what they have to say on breastfeeding. I don't! Please, keep it to yourselves because otherwise The Dude is forced to listen to my rants on the gung-ho breastfeeding contingent until he comes to the conclusion that there will be no second child because what if there are breastfeeding issues again? He would not be able to bear sitting through my extensive complaining sessions another time around. He doesn't have enough hours in his days.
The breastfeeding brigade would be most disappointed to learn that I have given up the pumping altogether as of yesterday. I am fearing the telephone conversation with my Mom when I break the news. I wasn't getting enough sleep given the need to pump every time P. fell asleep, so The Dude and I agreed that it was getting ridiculous. This move was precipitated by a 2am breakdown by yours truly because I had only managed to get about 4 hours of sleep in the previous 24 hour period. To think that further failed attempts at breastfeeding would yield an even more calamitous time...well, I'd rather not think of that.
Those people that think that breastfeeding should be done at all costs - I invite them to my house when it's midday, I'm not yet dressed, P. is crying hysterically and so am I. That is just a day when I've not slept and food has not even been taken into consideration. Imagine this scenario if I was still struggling to breastfeed or putting pressure on myself to keep up my milk supply and pump. If they would like to talk me down from the ledge each time it all gets too much, then I'll consider the dogged persistence it requires to stick with breastfeeding when there are difficulties.
What frustrated me more than my inability to do yet another basic female function (thanks body, a hearty "Fuck you!" to you too!) was the relentlessness of the rabid breastfeeding devotees. I already felt like a failure, and their insistence that P. and I should take to breastfeeding exaggerated that all the more. P.'s inability to latch on properly could have been due to her prematurity as well as her heart murmur. Often premature babies, even those that are slightly premature, have not yet developed the proper sucking mechanism to latch in the correct manner. Additionally, babies with heart murmurs are tested most during feeding as it requires twice the energy that the average newborn must commit to sucking at the breast. My poor kid had enough problems with these issues and the jaundice, she didn't need the countless stream of midwives calling her lazy because she couldn't get the hang of breastfeeding.
The cult of breastfeeding dictates that you must do this at all costs, or else you are depriving your child to the point of cruelty. Without breastmilk, your kid will be sickly, allergic to everything from dander to barbed wire, and won't be able to venture out of the house without his or her plastic bubble. This poor child will be riding the short bus while all the breastfed kids ride by in the big yellow bus to the school where they learn physics and calculus, leaving your kid struggling with basic mathematical concepts such as 2 + 4 = 6 at the age of 15.
I would have loved to have breastfed P. Would I trade it for bottle feeding and the time I spent pumping? Hell yes. In the limited time that I provided breastmilk for the bulk of her feeds I did feel as if I was helping her. However, when someone is incapable of carrying on with this, the last thing she needs is a guilt trip. I have enough self-imposed parenting guilt at this early stage to last a lifetime, so excuse me if I'm not keen on being told how I've already put my child at a disadvantage. Surely a new mother needs to be supported regardless rather than reminded constantly of her shortcomings?
This is just a heads up dear Statia, prepare yourself for the shitstorm that is ahead. Also, does anyone else giggle when faced with the word "teat"? No? Just me then...