Spilling the Milk: Reflections on Our Breastfeeding Experiences (Part 3)
[Note: Welcome to the third installment of Spilling the Milk, Orchid's 3-part series on breastfeeding. We honor and acknowledge everyone’s journey and know that each experience is so different (as is evident with our own stories!) Through these stories, it is our intent to not only share our individual journeys, but also to continue the conversation in highlighting the inherent diversity in others' experiences with breastfeeding.]
I sit writing in the car as my daughter sleeps in the back seat. I have had 3 weeks to write this and have struggled to find the words. I knew it would be a challenge, almost one year out and I am still processing (and grieving) an unsuccessful breastfeeding relationship.
I thought I would talk about every intervention we tried (nipple shield, sns, donor milk, pumping every 2 hours), all the supplements (and even medication) I took, the food I tried to boost my supply. We had hoped my supply would just catch up and she would latch and it would work. But it didn’t. And the details have become blurry.
Rationally, even though I know I did everything I could to try and make it happen, there is still part of me that wonders if I could have done more or if it could have been different. I had wonderful support and guidance from lactation consultants who reminded me that I had put in the effort and sometimes you just don’t get the result.
I see this struggle day in and out in the work we do at Orchid... and it is continually one of my life lessons both personally and professionally. Sometimes you can want something so bad and do everything you are supposed to do (eat the “right” things, avoid the “bad” things, take all your supplements, and practice all your self-care) and it still doesn’t happen (or not in the timeline you had hoped or expected or the way you dreamed it would in a million years). It is hard to find the silver lining in that moment and not feel like you have failed somehow. But life has its own agenda and I suppose these are good lessons for motherhood as all of a sudden you have this beautiful being that has their own path and preferences (and wakes times;) and often do the exact opposite of what you would like them to. You make the best decisions you can when thrown off course and move forward, hoping you didn’t make the wrong choice.
I have been reading a lot lately about the pressures to be perfect in motherhood that can leave one feeling inadequate or guilty when they can’t or don’t want to do it all. I continually remind myself that it doesn’t need to be perfect-just good enough. Our daughter is loved and taking care of me is equally important on our journey together as a family. The mindfulness class I took years ago has been put to good use- each day I try and focus on the positives versus my shortcomings (some days are certainly better than others). I am grateful as although there are still occasional twinges of sadness or disappointment, I am working through it. My body has done things beyond what I ever expected and for that I have to honor it- it didn’t all go as I planned but it is my story and it is my daughter’s story.
I was fortunate, as were Lisa and Theresa, in that we knew how to access amazing resources and support if needed. We also have flexibility with our work schedules and live and work in breastfeeding supportive environments. We find, however, that many patients are given very little breastfeeding support and yet see it is often the most challenging part of being a new mom. And even with a good start to a breastfeeding relationship, many women are faced with challenges when they return to work and are now trying to do their job and maintain their supply (on top of caring for their baby).
We hope that this blog series opens up the conversation about breastfeeding, motherhood and ways to strengthen the support that women are given throughout their journey, whatever it may be. Thank you for allowing us to share ours.
With honor and respect,
Rebecca, Lisa, and Theresa