Parenting by the Books: ‘Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson’
Sarah Blackwood
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Thank you. The day we came home with our baby she cried and cried…and refused the breast every time. I called a lactation consultant that night in tears, who told me to come back to the hospital for a special session. So, we drove back. She told me I just had a “sleepy” baby on my hands. I think my daughter was just very hungry. At any rate, I let it go on for about a day before I couldn’t watch her starve anymore and started pumping. I cried a lot. I felt I had somehow failed. I was mad at her — “If this were a hundred years ago you’d just be dead,” I would mutter, trying in between pumping sessions to get her to latch. Every time I got her in a breastfeeding position it was screams. Finally, after more lactation visits (one even came to my house and laid with me in bed to teach me how to breastfeed that way…she was amazed at my baby’s resistance) I gave up. I resigned myself to pumping. It was inhuman. I felt like a milk machine — I produced the milk without getting the benefits of seeing a sweet little baby look up at me appreciatively. And milk I did. I kneaded, I pulled, I leaked every morning and every night and times in between, I ate ridiculous things and drank more water than I’ve ever consumed before or since. I was determined to be the source of nutrition. And I was depressed. I felt like nothing would ever be happy or good again. I was a prisoner of the pump. At 3 months, when I went back to work, I jumped for joy. It was a reason to get out the door. Four months later, I decided to give it up for good. Immediately I felt this palpable sense of relief. It was like nothing I’ve ever felt before. We switched to formula, and I became slightly obsessed with what was IN formula (I still haven’t quite figured it out), and I would compare cans without knowing what the differences meant, but I felt it was what I should do to make sure we were doing our best despite my failure (see, I still felt like a failure). My depression eased but I still felt guilt, especially when I saw other people nursing in public (I wanted to be a militant breastfeeder and it was stolen from me! I wanted to tell people off in the mall!). I started imagining that every woman who saw me bottle feeding my daughter figured I hated the idea of nursing. Looking back on it, I’m not sure that was true. I have no idea what other people were feeling about my struggle because I never asked. I kept myself closed off, I figured I was such a failure…that it was supposed to be easy and natural and if I couldn’t do it there was something fundamentally wrong with me as a nurturer. Oh my god. I could talk about it all night. I have to stop now, but I just really wanted to say thank you. It’s nice when someone gets you. It’s nice to be gotten. My daughter is now 2, and is the brightest most hilarious kid. She goes to daycare, she eats mac & cheese at least 3 times a week… we’re all doing fine, now. I’m worried about the next one, though (when that day comes).

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