When you look at that photo, you see a bad ass mom breastfeeding her baby like it's no big deal. I know better. That woman is me, and that woman is barely hanging on.
I originally planned to share this photo during National Breastfeeding Week, a cause I want to believe in. Instead, I know I need to send a much more important message: Maternal Mental Health.
I wish I had listened to my body. I wish I listened to my soul telling me I needed space and a break from the constant demand. I didn't listen. I viewed this as my job, my sole responsibility to carry. My husband would have gladly woken up at 2am, 3am, 4am to prepare a bottle and feed our baby. I was committed to breastfeeding despite my own wellness.
When I look at that photo, I see a woman silently screaming. I see trauma. While I am sure breastfeeding had a lot of advantages for my son, it also took a lasting toll on me and our bond. It felt like taking. Taking my energy, taking my control. I was attached to this little human on his schedule with no relief. Even at work, all things halted when it was time to pump to ensure he would have enough for daycare bottles the next day. After work when I was tired and emotionally drained from my job as a school counselor taking care of other people's children, I would steel myself to give up more of myself and feed my child and nurse him to sleep. It was the only thing that would work, and we were desperate for sleep. The only thing I wanted to do less than nurse him was hear him cry.
Moms reading this may hope I wised up and fed that baby some formula soon after this photo (he is about 3 months old there). I didn't. 17 months. I nursed him for 17 months. I have no one to blame but myself for not listening to my body. My counselor would tell you I have a thinking problem, often using logic to talk myself into and around things. I knew this was what was best for my baby. My brain and all of the articles I read told me so. What I was totally ignoring is that sometimes what is best for the baby isn't what is best for the mom.
My son turns 4 in January, and I still struggle with his touch sometimes. I just recently feel that overwhelming love that other new mothers speak of. He still likes to put his hands on my chest for comfort, and instead of just allowing it I have started to talk to him about my body and consent. I am trying, I am growing, I am learning to listen to myself.