WHOLEHEARTED | BREASTFEEDING LINEN
As I’m sitting in Linen’s nursery while writing this, watching her nap, I have no idea where the last 4 months have gone. On one hand, my newborn has turned into a baby in a blink and on the other hand, I think about all of the sleepless nights within these 4 walls trying to get her back to sleep. If I had to sum up the last 120 days in one word it would be – emotional. Both the beautiful and the brutal, I’ve felt everything more. Harder and deeper than ever before. I’ve cried tears of pure fulfillment and tears of exhaustion. Never happier, never more depleted. The days have felt long, but the weeks have reminded me that those days build an undoubtable strength. I’ve given more when I felt I had nothing else to give, fiercely protected her in every way I know how, trusted my gut without question, and reminded myself that there’s no other person on this earth that’s supposed to be her mama. She’s mine and I’m hers – there’s no greater bond in the world.
Under that ’emotional’ category are bullet points of what makes up that word. At the very top of that list: breastfeeding.
I’ve never experienced anything like breastfeeding in my life. So many different emotions, both positive and negative, exist within the word leaving your feelings somewhat hard to process. In a season where you are the most fragile, you’re expected to keep another person alive. It’s the hardest job in the world, but at the same time, the joy of your life.
While pregnant, I knew I was going to do everything I could do nurse Linen. I always said I would never put pressure on myself to breastfeed her, I would simply take each day as it came. I’d be grateful for any amount of milk and call it a win. When we found out she was breech and we were going to have to have a scheduled c-section, that ‘no pressure’ mindset went out the window. To be completely honest, I felt robbed of the experience. There was something inside of me that had to process and grieve the reality that I couldn’t deliver her safely. I felt like the decision was being made for me and all of the sudden, it made my hope to breastfeed feel like a necessity. I wasn’t going to have the birth story I always imagined, and I had to wrap my mind around this way not being better or worse, just different. Nursing felt like something that would give me back a piece of the whole experience – something that was more within my control. I told myself that no matter how painful it would be, no matter how exhausted I was, I would push through. I compared the labor of love within breastfeeding to pushing through the labor of childbirth – it was my own, and only, way of justifying the trade. One for the other. Right or wrong, probably skewed, that’s how I felt. Even while I was still carrying her, I longed for the continued closeness after she was out.
After surgery and shortly after settling into our hospital room, the door was revolving with nurses. One of them assisted me in getting Linen to latch for the first time and I remember feeling like it was all a dream. I couldn’t physically move, yet everything around me was in constant motion. Throughout the entire morning, any walls of modesty came crashing down and this was no different. I sat in the hospital bed in a beautiful fog, so ready and willing to feed my daughter from my body. The nurse somewhat forced, then collected my output and spoon-fed it to Linen, making sure she got every drop. It was the start of something so beautiful – such a miracle in every way.
With a little coaching and a lot of questions, we started to figure it out together. Linen was latching so well. The colostrum was flowing and my body was slowly, but surely reassuring me that I could do this. Eventually, the colostrum turned to milk and every time I would nurse her, I felt this overwhelming amount of gratitude. My thankfulness masked my uncomfortableness.
Once we were home from the hospital, the round-the-clock hours and constant feedings started to take their toll. All of my friends who could speak to the joys and woes of breastfeeding told me to just get to two weeks. To four. To six weeks. They encouraged me, prayed over me, and between their support and J’s – they got me through each of those weeks. So many of you did, too. Their words rejuvenated my soul when it needed uplifting:
Breathe through the pain, relaxing helps your milk let down.
Just because it hurts is not a sign that you are doing it wrong.
I promise you, this is the hardest it will ever be.
Relax your body, every muscle, and tell yourself truth.
This is something only God could equip women to do.
In these first weeks, you are stronger than you’ve ever been, even in the mess and the tears.
Even when the nights feel long and lonely, you were created specifically for these moments.
These words are screenshotted in my phone. I read them out loud and referred back to them day after day, night after night. The camaraderie and understanding gave me such peace, knowing that so many others have felt exactly what I was feeling in those moments. And they were right – it didn’t take long for pain and fear to be replaced by strong and capable. Eight to ten times a day, I was proving to myself what resilience looks like in every sense of the word.
For the next 120 days, God gave me the gift of feeding Linen. 640+ hours that I wouldn’t change one second of. I chose it, forcing other things to take a backseat. I covered it in prayer.
For reasons out of my control, my breastfeeding journey has run its course. After a three month regression in my milk supply, I gave myself 30 more days of grace + trying everything I could to keep going. John was so supportive, helping and encouraging me every step of the way, while giving me the space to feel. He reassured me when I felt broken and gave me the freedom to choose how we transition. I was determined to go out swinging and that’s exactly what I did. I’ve prayed for clarity in how to move forward – either give me an abundance of milk or dry it up, but I can no longer live in the exhausting in-between. In full transparency, I told God that this was something He was going to have to take from me if it wasn’t His will for me to continue. I’m not ready to give it up. I’ve worked so hard for it and to be completely honest, I don’t understand it. Over the weekend, I nursed Linen for the last time. Just the two of us, crying tears of heartbreak – both in wholehearted appreciation and fear of letting it go. Nothing in my life has ever made me more proud of myself and for now, that feeling has to be enough. Shame, guilt and comparison have no place here. I know His plans are always greater than ours and I have to believe that. There are equally as many freedoms that come with this season ending and that’s what I’m choosing to focus on. All I’ve ever wanted and prayed for is a happy, content + fulfilled, healthy baby – that’s all that matters.
I’m writing this for a few different reasons. For the future mamas who wonder if breastfeeding is truly worth it. For the current mamas who can relate + understand my grieving of this season. To simply dive-deeper and share my heart when life is hard. The good, the bad, and the ugly – I’ve always promised to let you in. And selfishly – for myself. Writing is part of my healing process – getting it out and seeing it in black and white helps me leave it there. Lastly, if a floral-scented shampoo gets a permanent spot within this space, then this sure as hell does, too.
Thank you for always letting me be vulnerable and write about what matters. We love y’all so much – a new season is upon us and I think it’s going to give me back a lot of time + energy to be more present here. After all, ‘here’ is pretty wonderful, too.