Happy World Breastfeeding Week to all! Whether you breastfed for any length of time, if at all, the goal of WBW is to “protect, promote, and support breastfeeding worldwide”. From August 1-7 each year, photos abound of nursing babes and moms in various forms to lend support to the idea of a global breastfeeding culture filled with education and support for all-things-lactation.
I recently aimed to join in this celebration by sharing photos of my breastfeeding relationship with my almost-two-year-old son, so I went in search through our photos since birth. I had anticipated I would find a few and share one each day on my Facebook – no big deal. Well, in true-to-form Mandy Evans fashion, I soon realized this wouldn’t be as straightforward as I imagined. Of course complex emotions quickly clouded this simple goal and I couldn’t stop the BITTERSWEET reflections that flooded me. In looking for a short story of my breastfeeding journey, my trip down memory lane came with some new realizations…
- I barely have any photos of our breastfeeding! I mean, this is something I sort-of figured, but thought there were a few random shots floating around in our jump drive. So here I am, this huge breastfeeding lover that somehow missed the memo for oh, so long. It is quite jarring to look back and remember how different I am now from when I lacked confidence as a mother for a very long time. I have such wonderful memories of our nursing, but it is hard to swallow that we barely captured those moments in pictures.
- Similarly, it was pretty stinky to see just how few pictures I have of myself in general during that first year of motherhood. I’m not sure what the word is for the feeling I felt at realizing this; partly anger that others didn’t think to document mommy and son for me, or take family shots of us when they were around. And naturally, anger at myself for not asking for such things. If I have to ask for something, I feel silly. People should just KNOW what I want. I need to surround myself with mind-readers, apparently. I had a lot going on and could barely function, so I often wish others would have cared for me more, in so many ways. I continue to work on that anger, regret, and unrealistic expectation, understanding that it was/is ultimately up to me to express myself.
- And finally, I realized I was a big part of the reason I don’t have photos of me breastfeeding. It goes along with feeling dumb for asking, but I was afraid of what my husband or family would think of me for WANTING a breastfeeding photo. My husband and I totally get it now and wouldn’t hesitate to nurse-in-public or photograph anywhere, but things were much different at first. When I nursed my son for his first few months, everybody seemed to leave the room, or I would leave the room on my own. This isolating feeling did not help my postpartum depression at all. I remember folks bringing us dinners after we brought Reece home and I could tell how many people were uncomfortable when I started to unclasp my nursing bra. I clearly felt this sense of awkwardness and wondered if it was wrong of me to start nursing while a friend’s husband happened to be in the room? Or hesitated because a friend with children would ask them not to look. It wasn’t me who minded, but it took me awhile to get the hang of the dynamics. It felt like something I was supposed to keep away from others, so off to a different room I went anytime people were around. I tried using a cover, but I was already sweating profusely post-baby and Reece did not like that much either. I didn’t even want people to come over because it was just much easier for me to run around in a bra to nurse whenever/wherever baby wanted. I’m not sure I knew anyone from those early months that I felt would have eagerly taken a breastfeeding shot for me. They probably would have, but that was just my perception. I soon found awesome like-minded mommies that I wish I would have known earlier!
- Thankfully, I was able to breastfeed without issue. Since I was plagued with many other complications following labor, I have a hard time truly remembering those early days. I cannot recall if breastfeeding fell into place easily for us, or if it simply hurt less (during the learning curve, I mean) than my infected incision and injured tailbone. Perhaps that was a good thing for me, that I really “latched on” to breastfeeding as my thing after a less-than-empowering birth. I was determined and on autopilot nursing while I dealt with those other issues. I originally aimed to breastfeed for at least a month, which turned into a 6-month goal, then I shot for a year. Now here we are pushing two years of successful nursing, which I never even imagined. I plan to soak up every single minute of breastfeeding Reece until whenever he and I are finished soon. (Standard crunchy mom answer: “You know, sometime before college…”)
- After I went through all of the photos from birth until now, I found only these shots below in this post. My biggest realization turned out to have nothing to do with breastfeeding really: I was able to look through all of these photos with a smile on my face. Do you know how great that news is for me, friends?! Yes, I wish I had more of me, nursing and in general – but I no longer looked at those newborn photos through sad eyes. That was my fear for so long with PPD, that even the photos/memories would hurt forever. Somewhere throughout these past two years, time has changed my ability to look back on our journey fondly. Photos that were painful to me in the past have transformed into positive recollections. Hallelujer!
I guiltily admit that before having children, I did not understand why one would post a photo that revealed so much of them. Now, I cherish all breastfeeding photos because it DOES, indeed, reveal so much. It signifies an incredible love and cultivation of a relationship like no other. Each photo is a lasting memory of such a fleeting time. An image that captures the challenge and joy of an act that takes so much out of a woman, yet gives back even more. A still picture of raw life. The truth is that breastfeeding photographs ARE revealing, whether you even see much of a boob at all. Maybe that is why some people cannot handle the strong feelings they evoke.
Personally, learning to produce milk to sustain another human was one of the most incredible experiences I am fortunate to have. It was such an interesting ride that I wish I would have known I wanted to document better. I can still
milk make up for lost time in breastfeeding photos now to cherish. I’ll never have my first entrance to motherhood again, but I will hopefully have a second child someday. I am excited that “next time” I will be prepared with more knowledge, a supportive community through birth and postpartum, and another chance to take/ask for any photographs I want. And I am NOT leaving the room like a leper ever again.
PROFESSIONAL PHOTOS MENTIONED BELOW:
This is my necessary disclaimer that this blog is not meant to diagnose, treat, or cure. I am only a mom with an education background. I must let you know that any essential oils statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. I simply approve for myself and family of such things that I deem safe, effective, and positively life-transformative. I encourage you all to be informed and empowered with your health. Also, some of my posts may contain affiliate links. When you click them, you help me to cover a small portion of the cost of this blog. I appreciate your support so that I can continue to do what I love. Please note that I only ever endorse products that are in alignment with Odds & Evans’ ideals, my personal use, and those I believe would be of value to my readers.