The Truth About Breastfeeding*

Breastfeeding seems to be a polarizing and controversial subject for some reason. It’s weird that people care so much about how I feed my kid. Hypocrisy abounds around the politics of the breast. I’m not really wanting to open that can of worms but I just feel it needs to be acknowledged. I especially want to acknowledge Westernized conceptions around breastfeeding and how it erases women of color especially but that’s for another day and another post.

*Ok, second of all… every woman has their own unique experiences around breastfeeding and there is literally no wrong path through it. This is about the truth of breastfeeding for me. This is for my daughters and maybe other women just beginning their journey. To have another side. As with everything else on these pages, it centers my own perspective.

I have six kids, three of them came out of my body, I breastfed all three to varying degrees of success and failures but the journey I’m here to talk about is with my youngest, she’ll be 1 tomorrow and what a year it’s been!

I want to say that I encourage breastfeeding, it’s an inexpensive way to keep your baby healthy and well fed. I will provide plenty of resources at the end of this for your reference and review.  I think every woman should try to if they are able but, if you don’t or can’t, that’s cool too. I’m not here to be sanctimonious.

G took to nursing from day one. Her latch, though shallow, was solid and she produced plenty of wet diapers to show for her efforts. I felt really grateful for this because I know, from my own experiences, this is a struggle sometimes.

I took a baby led approach to nursing, she let me know when she was ready and my body adjusted. That is how it has gone all these months. We fell into a pretty solid routine naturally and unless she is sick or something else is off, we stick to it regularly. She nurses a couple of times morning, afternoon, and night.

At 6 months we introduced solid foods, which she also took to enthusiastically.

I began to take a baby led approach to weaning. She tells me when she is ready.

I never expected, her being my last child, I’d want to stop before she did.

A year later, juggling 5 other children and a husband with a chronic, at times debilitating condition, has complicated this journey. I’m tired and there are times, I just don’t want to relinquish control of my body to a part-time nipple terrorist, who is entering mischievous toddlerhood and inclined to give me a good bite!

Sometimes she fights sleep and thrashes in my arms, with breast in her mouth, I’ve received several fat lips from head butting while breastfeeding. I’m tired y’all. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been ready to be done with a feeding and she’s like, “nah, I’m gonna hang here with your titty for a quite a bit longer, you may want to cancel the rest of your day.”

*sigh*

The guilt just reading that back to myself, for saying it out loud, it eats at me. She’s my last child, I will never have this experience again. Shouldn’t every moment be magical?

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That’s not how this works, that’s not how anything in life works, at least not for me. It’s bittersweet. For the most part I am prepared to sit and nurse, happily cuddling my baby while she nestles down to nurse. Often, I move in to kiss her forehead and silently thank the universe for the moment.

Other times (most especially at 2AM), I grit my teeth through the experience, bone weary from a long day, from a year without a full night’s sleep. I grit my teeth and want her to be done….in those times her suckling grates on me. Making me, all of a sudden, possessive of my body, my breast, my nipple.

When she is fighting sleep, whining in my arms, irritated but unwilling to self-soothe, demanding I be at her beck and call. When her belly is full and she doesn’t need to nurse for hunger, rather for comfort, so she keeps popping on and off the breast like it’s a pacifier.

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It’s hard to admit this. I don’t want to discourage women from this path. I just need to be honest, this path isn’t always easy. It demands things of not just my physical self but psychologically too. I’m not necessarily, the most naturally, selfless person. I have to work at that. Even as a mother, a role that requires tons of sacrifice. I resent that sacrifice sometimes. That’s real talk. breastfeeding isn’t divorced from that.

It’s not always rainbows and butterflies and while, I’m not pushing her off the breast, I am trying to figure out how I can gain more control of my own body. I have a tremendous support system in my husband and my children and my village is amazing. That helps. When embarking on this journey, it is so important to build a support system. It helps get you over the bumps in the road. There will be some.

 

As promised here are some great breastfeeding resources to help you along your journey!

Kellymom

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Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine

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World Health Organization – Breastfeeding

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The Leaky Boob

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Medela

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Black Women Do Breastfeed

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Lactation Matters

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NAPPLSC

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Over all this has been a rewarding experience, I have been allowed to bond with my girl in deeply meaningful ways. I’m proud of my working breasts!

On Living Life in Survival Mode

I have been sitting here for a full five minutes trying to figure out how to lay this down without sounding like a bitter bitch! How can I truly capture the edge of my seat existence without sounding every bit as angry about it as I am? Years of societal condition has taught me that failure at finding financial security is because I just haven’t worked hard enough.

Bootstrap mentality has made it so my worth as a person is tied to my financial success and poverty is attributed to my own failings as a human being and not the parasitic corporate structure sucking the life out of good, hard working people like my husband and I.

Hard work and gumption will makes your dreams come true is the mantra of the bootstrapper and he picks himself up and dusts himself of with his trust fund money just to prove his point. I believed that too though. I truly believed that. I started working as a teenager and I have not stopped since. There has not been a job beneath me. I have bussed tables, slung wares on the street, cleaned toilets, dedicated countless hours to hard work. My corporate career is no exception. I have built an incredible network of colleagues over decades. My resume is legit. Not a single lie on it!

I’m a hard working woman, I should be a millionaire.

Hard work + “gumption” is not a secret formula to economic prosperity.

I’ve got both and all it’s given me is a stubborn and persistent will to live. It keeps me surviving.

I think about that a lot. In fact, I’m obsessed with it. I can’t stop doing it.

Surviving.

Lord knows that looks different for everybody. Surviving for me looks like happy children not feeling the weight of our financial stresses.

survival-chart-1That takes a ton of masterful surviving. I am an artist at surviving. I make it look effortless. Like a ballet. Balanced and finessed, the perfect lighting, full of flair. A masterful show intended to make all the heavy things feel light as air. It’s slight of hand. I recognize the extra I have to be to pull it all off and I put the spotlight there, instead of my pain over never having enough. That’s the trick to surviving. Making the pain wait until there’s time. The pain believes me but what a fool because there is never time for that. Survival mode means there is always something to do, some plans to make, some move to orchestrate to make it through the day.

I know what you’re thinking…but, I promise you, I love my life and I regret none of my choices. I am not in a happy deficit. On the contrary…I laugh easily, I find joy in every place…that’s another trick of surviving…forcing yourself to see joy in things most find annoying.

The wind in my hair. The rain on my face. The chaos of raising six kids.

Incredibly gifted, insightful, intuitive and compassionate kids. They are my super power.

The truth is living in survival mode is bitter business. The absolute truth is, hardworking people are always one illness or catastrophe away from falling apart. I envy folks who have it “together.” All their entire needs met always and consistently without thinking too much about it. The truth is, I’ve had a few periods in my life where the work was abundant and I didn’t have to worry about silly things like bills. I had free time then too. I made plans.

I know many, many people in my circle who can relate to this. They are brilliant, intelligent, talented people. None of us getting what we are worth. That’s exactly how I know existing in survival mode has less to do with my own personal failings and more to do with the deck being stacked unfairly against a working, woman of color like me.

That’s just the truth and it was a truth I am grateful to have come to, cos that’s the last trick to living life on survival mode, knowing my worth and holding to it without compromise, without apologizing for my existence ever. My basic needs can’t be met because society is flawed as fuck and uncaring and critical of my poverty.

That’s not my fault. I’m fucking fabulous. Fight me!

Motherhood is a superpower

But

Even superheroes make mistakes

And

I’m not infallible or beyond reproach even as I coach my kids through their bad days

I have my own

I

Cry and thrash and I rage, even after turning the other cheek

I speak out of turn and I burn with jealousy at women freer than me

My super powered life comes with super powered strife

Comes with

Pain

Comes with

Misery

There’s beauty in their smiles

Their milestones are also mine and they keep me overjoyed

And

Overwhelmed

And

Over myself. I get, over myself because it isn’t about myself.

Life as a superhero means you live life outside yourself

Means, you put on your tights and your cape and you fly swift and true and strong for those who need you, wherever and whenever they need you to, do whatever they need you to do.

Life

As a superhero means you forgo your humanity to be for them what they need you to be when they need you to be

Theirs

I am theirs.

I am a superpower, a goddamn super powered odyssey lives, in me

Super human, a super powered fantasy

All the extra, all the other, lays down quiet at my feet,

It means nothing, all the other when,

I am mother

I am life and their lives live in me.