Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Got Milk? Who Cares?

I have been looking at my life a lot lately and savoring the many things I have going for me. And while much of what I have has come from a lot of work, effort and patience on my part, I still can't believe the miracle of having my sweet, perfect daughter is here smiling at me right now. I certainly didn't do anything extraordinary to deserve her. Sure I charted, I OPKd, I timed, I payed thousands of dollars to receive hundreds of shots, I cried, I lost, I hurt, I prayed and I hoped but did I really do anything anyone else in my position hasn't done? No, absolutely not.

So why am I here while so many of my deserving sisters in the IF community are still hurting from prolonged adoptions,
BFNs and tragic losses? Not because these things are meant to or not meant to be or because I have good karma and they don't. I still struggle daily with infertility "survivor's guilt" knowing that so many people that I love dearly are still hurting and hoping for their time to come. I don't believe I am somehow more worthy of motherhood or somehow think I am somehow a better person than someone just because I have made the choice to be a parent and have been lucky enough to be able to do so. And the same goes for the choices I make as a parent, I don't believe mine are "right" and someone else's are "wrong".

I have been a mom for 3 and a half months, and with the exception of the first night in the hospital when Snow Pea was away from me in the nursery for observation, I have been fortunate enough to be able to breastfeed exclusively since she was born. I am very grateful that it has, for the most part, come easily to me and my daughter, but I don't take credit for it and I don't believe I am somehow superior because of it.

I am sure it is no secret to any of you that breastfeeding is a huge hot button issue. People are constantly throwing in their two cents on whether or not to do it, if it's ok to do it in public, whether it should be scheduled or "on demand" and what you're doing "wrong" if it doesn't go well. I have talked to friends and family members who have fallen on every side of all of these concerns and I have come to realize that breastfeeding carries with it so many of the same emotions and feelings as infertility.

One of the great gifts infertility has given me is gratitude. Of course, having struggled to become a mom, I don't take being one for granted, not for a second. And having learned that lesson with my fertility, I also realize how much my ability to nurse is something to be grateful for, something I got lucky with. So far, I have not had any trouble with supply or pain or infection and it has been pretty simple and painless for both Eliana and me. She is gaining weight perfectly and has even taken easily to a bottle of pumped milk anytime we offer it to her. But I don't think I did anything special to make any of this happen and I am also aware that it could all change at any time. Yes, I work at it and it can take a lot out of me, but that doesn't mean I have any control over it. I also worked hard to take my temperature every morning and chart my ovulation but I will never get pregnant without ART no matter how much work I put into it. It's just not something I can control. And just as someone who got pregnant on their first try is no more deserving of motherhood, I am no better at at it than friends who have had struggled with milk supply or who simply chose not to breastfeed for whatever reason. We all love our kids and we are all taking the best possible care of them in whatever form or fashion best suits our families.

I have seen and heard the hurt that comes from some of my friends who couldn't or have chosen not to breastfeed for whatever reason, and it reminds me so much of the pain of infertility. They seem to experience so many of the same emotions. And for those who struggled with IF before becoming parents, it can be even harder. There are similar feelings of helplessness, loss, and inadequacy. If you want to do it and can't, you can feel robbed of what you envisioned as a sacred experience and a rite of womanhood. If you choose not to breastfeed or become a mother without experiencing the hormonal changes of pregnancy and birth to trigger milk production, as in the case of adoption, you can feel completely left out by the rest of the boob-obsessed world we seem to live in. And in either situation guilt is lobbed at you in heaps. It all too often seems to make women feel like failures at motherhood if they don't breastfeed, just as I felt like a failure at womanhood when I couldn't get pregnant.

Being infertile, I highly value having relationships with others in my shoes that can relate, but I also have a great appreciation for my fertile friends and family that truly empathize with my experiences, those that acknowledge that they aren't somehow more deserving of being parents just because it happened easily for them. And in that same vein, I think it is important for me to acknowledge that no matter how hard I worked to get here or what choices that I make now that I have arrived, there is no amount of money I've spent, tears I've cried, shots I've received or milk I've produced that makes me a good or bad mother. I am a great mom because I love my child and I make choices every day that reflect that. I don't have control over many things, but loving her unconditionally and supporting everyone else that does the same for their families, that I can do.


Serendipitie said...

Well said! I hope for a lot of things, to be able to breastfeed is one, and I will need to remember that in case it doesn't work out, it's not the end of the world. I guess of infertility teaches you anything, it's to accept things for what they are. xoxo

Miracle in the Making said...

Great post Holly!

Chasing a Miracle said...

It is so awesome that you are able to BF exclusively, i honestly mean that and as one of the ones that 'couldnt' its so nice to hear someone not give an opinion, but rather that it is just the way the cookie crumbles.

You are so right in saying it is such a hot topic, that people are either for or against, that everyone has an opinion and are very willing to pass it on to you.

I remember in the early days where i struggled, where i dreaded feed times, where i cried and cried until my daughters hair was wet with tears, where she screamed at me because she was so hungry, where i screamed at her, at my husband at myself because i 'couldnt' do it...

Everyone was telling me 'breast was best' everyone was saying persevere through the pain, its only a little blood, you will get there... My doctor even told me they are not allowed to give you the tablets to 'dry your supply' anymore because 'breast is best'(oh how i hate that saying - curse it i say! curse it!)

The world was against me - even an old lady stopped me in the shops and asked if i was breast feeding - a stranger!

Then came a quite friend, my best friend, she simply sent me a text with a formula name. It took me three trips to the chemist to work up enough courage to buy a tin, but i did...

And i honestly just wish that someone would have simply told me that it was ok sooner, i wish that the condemnation could have been put aside sooner, that people could have simply been more supportive...

You are so right, not being able to breast feed is much like being told you are infertile -failure... & i think that is something the world needs to work on, stop judging and start supporting no matter the case...

great post, sorry to ramble i guess you touched a soft spot


Mrs. V said...

I LOVE this post! So well put, well thought out, and well said. I was able to exclusively breastfeed my daughter for four months, and then continued to breastfeed her along with supplementing until she was six months old.

I received opinions from people in regards to everything that I did/do. And it all boils down to this:

Infertility sucks, mom's judging other mom's sucks, pregnancy/child loss sucks, nosey people trying to tell you how to raise your child sucks, some things just suck. I've come to learn that how I handle a situation is equally as important to the actual situation, if that makes sense.

I applaud you for being such a great mom, and for chosing to feed your baby the way you wanted too!

Thanks for this post!!

Keva @Mamachickx4 said...

Love the post! Well said mama :-)

Doogie said...

I wrote a really long post and then realized it was all beside the point.

"Breast is best," shouldn't be used to marginalize mothers who can't breastfeed. It's meant to provide support for mothers who haven't considered breastfeeding, don't have a strong lactation support network, and/or need extra external motivation.

Unfortunately this is a jingoist society and, "If you can breastfeed, that's optimal; but the bottom line is you and your baby need to maximize the impact of your feeding times and grow together in a healthy way, whatever that takes," is just a bit long for most people which reduces the impact.

Coming from an IF background means I don't fully trust my body to do the right thing, so while perfectly fertile and perfect breastfeeding moms (if such a creature exists) have perfect faith in their bodies to provide the perfect milk in the perfect quantities at the perfect time, I don't. As it happens, I'm not bad at lactating, but in the corner of my basement, on a high shelf, there's a jar of powdered formula. Just in case. I'm not ashamed to have a backup plan. I *know* I'm lucky to be breastfeeding. I know what I went through to get here and it could have easily gone the other way. But a part of me would have always wanted to breastfeed and would have felt less than adequate if I couldn't; just as a part of me will always feel less than adequate because I had to use ART to get pregnant. It's not an external judgment I'm fighting, it's my own internal desires. I don't want to be dependent on drugs and formulas to do what I want to be able to do myself.

Holly said...

Very well written, Holly. I love to hear your voice in your posts. You could pen a book. I love you and we WILL make a phone call happen very soon.