When World Breastfeeding Week Stings...
Hello all. Veronika here. :)
This is the first World Breastfeeding Week that I have not been nursing a child or children since I became a mother in 2011.
It feels...not that awesome.
And I'm kind of struggling...
You see, not only have both my girls weaned within this past year, but, I was supposed to be preparing my mind, body, and soul for a new nursling. A nursling who was estimated to arrive within the next few weeks, but decided to come much earlier instead. We lost that little life at roughly seven weeks this past January, and have been struggling with secondary infertility since.
A year ago, I was honored to be selected as a Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project (PBAP) photographer and help in their quest to normalize public breastfeeding, end the stigma and the shame mothers face, and celebrate the nursing relationship. I loved it. I loved working with mothers to document that incredible bond and at the same time, quench my activists' heart with a mission I felt passionate about.
But this year, I couldn't celebrate. I had to step away from PBAP and not participate anymore. And I'm so sorry to my community, friends, fans, followers...I have been pretty radio silent during World Breastfeeding Week and it's quite honestly because I'm just...sad.
I wish I could celebrate with you.
I wish I could march with you.
I wish I could just shake this off and not be so bitter.
But I'm feeling so lost.
I nursed my first babe with such immense joy. But I struggled with fear- fear of what society would think, what my family would think, if I would run into a conflict with a stranger while I nursed in public. Looking back now, after six years of mothering, I wish I could have let that all go and not given a crap. I let it hold me back so much, and I regret wasting that precious time being so preoccupied with what others thought of me.
Then, I got pregnant again when she was a year old, and I continued to breastfeed through my pregnancy. Quite honestly, I would never do that again (intentionally). It was harder than I thought it would be and I harbor a lot of guilt that I struggled with it so much when she was SO young and didn't deserve to have me cringe and wince or even push her away when I couldn't handle the sensation.
And then I tandem nursed. And I have all the same feelings of guilt with that too. While sometimes it was amazing- sometimes, it was not. And I hate that the following four years of our tandem nursing journey were tainted by frustration and resentment. The good moments were so, so good though. The way they'd find each others hands and fall asleep together with bellies full of milk...the way I could mother both my girls from the couch or bed while I recovered postpartum.
And I look back and I miss it so bad. I just wish it had been easier in the moment. Because four of my five years of nursing were stained with a touch of hatred and I want to erase that more than anything. Anything.
Now that I know I may never grow and nourish a child with my body ever again.
I feel defeated. Cheated. Angry.
I want the last six years back.
I want my baby back.
I want to feel the flutter of feet inside of me, just once more. Please. Just once more.
I want to smell the milk-sweet breath of a newborn and feel the weight of its dreaming head on my chest while we breath in unison and our hearts beat in tandem.
I want to know, deeply, the soul that was supposed to join us. But I never will.
I want a first latch one last time.
I want a last latch one last time.
I debated for the past week whether or not I should write all of this down, but then Laura convinced me to just go for it. She said maybe someone out there will need to hear these words and know they aren't alone. So here it is.
If World Breastfeeding Week was hard for you...if you silently cringed every time a photo popped up in your feed of a fresh baby or a child being cradled and nursed by their mum...if you cried into your pillow a little bit this week because you don't get to hold that baby you longed for in your arms, or your kid is starting school this fall and all you want to do is hit "rewind" and go back to the days where you felt the weight of their body tucked into you more times in a day than you can count...or if you, for whatever reason, couldn't breastfeed or struggled with breastfeeding, or if it just sucked the life out of you and you quit but maybe regret it...if you felt anything other than bliss and support and community because you aren't on that path of life and you so desperately want to be...
You are not alone.
And I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.
I'm sorry for your loss. Your struggles. I'm sorry for time who has stolen your joy. I'm sorry if you feel invisible and alone. Defeated.
You are not alone.
And it's 110% okay to feel what you are feeling. Without apology.
And to the mamas who are reading this who just came off a week of celebrating World Breastfeeding Week...who have a newborn, or a toddler, or a child...who are nursing through pregnancy or tandem or triandem feeding...adoptive mothers who have fought to lactate/re-lactate, moms who fight to provide their babies with donor milk, mothers who are diligently pumping to provide breastmilk to their young or who are so selflessly donating it to others...I am proud of you. I embrace you. I celebrate and admire you. Keep up the good fight and continue this sacred mothers' work. And know...you are blessed.
I celebrate you and lift you up.
I support you and encourage you.
We are sisters in this walk together.
Keep celebrating miraculous selves and your amazing accomplishments. Continue cherishing your journeys and sharing them with the world. You deserve this week! You are glorious.
As for me- as my would-be due date approaches- I will unapologetically sulk and let my feelings feel. I will look back on old pictures and close my eyes and try hard to relive all the wonderful and incredible moments of life with two little nurslings. And probably cry a lot.