Every day is such an up hill struggle. Every waking minute, a fight. Even the simplest tasks become akin to climbing Everest. Every ounce of energy I once possessed has been entirely sapped from my body, eaten up by the rabid monster that is depression.
It destroys all that is light and good, diminishes hope. All that is left is a barren wasteland of intrusive thoughts, gnawing away at my insides, crippling my soul and accelerating my beating heart. How can my pulse and thoughts race so quickly when every movement feels so weighed down, so much effort?
I don’t have the strength within me to fight this demon. So much energy is expelled achieving the most mundane and trivial of tasks, dressing, moving, speaking. How can there be anything left for the war? Just summoning the words and hand mobility to write this is draining.
This mental illness is strong, it’s relentless. It seeps into every pore. Nothing is pure and wonderful, even the happy moments are tainted. It lies in wait until it catches you smile, then taps you on the shoulder to remind you it’s there. It’s unforgiving, reminding you of every flaw, every moment of weakness. It plays out every mistake and fear and upset on the big screen in your mind, on a continuous loop.
I must try to soldier on, if not for mine, then for my child’s sake. I’m plodding, movements heavy, muddling through as best I can. I don’t want to have to think and feel and act. The responsibility of managing my own life seems too much for me. I need a hand to hold from somewhere, some divine being to carry me so that I can rest a while.
Where can I muster some energy from, for this fight? I need a source to plug in to, to replenish myself, to begin to heal. I’m surviving by sucking the life out of those around me. I can’t let the toxicity of this beast destroy the lives of others too. For now, I’ll envelop myself in my little cave, my sanctuary, and rest. I’ll try to clear my mind, empty it of dark thoughts and muster up the courage and strength to fight the upcoming battle; another day with mental illness.
You may not be parents yet, or you may have chosen a different method than breastfeeding to feed your baby. More power to ya, that’s your right, your choice. But many millions of women do choose to be parents and breastfeed their babies. I get that most of you are cool with that. You just don’t wanna see it, right? How could you possibly enjoy your club sandwich with friends when there’s a woman with her boob hanging out with a baby dangling on the end of it? How can you focus on your conversation or work meeting or newspaper with such a spectacle going on?
Have you ever considered why you find such a sight disturbing? Perhaps it’s because huge formula companies advertise the shit out of powdered milk in plastic bottles, creating an image that that’s the more normal way to feed a baby, to sell more cartons and make more money. Maybe it’s the papers and magazines and companies that make lingerie leading you to believe that the best way to see breasts are pushed up together as much as possible, seductively oiled and used for sexual gratification. Either way, seeing a baby suckling on a nipple isn’t a common sight and you can’t be blamed for that.
What you can be held accountable for is voicing the damaging opinion that mothers with nursing babies should be shunned, hidden away, locked in dirty public bathrooms or kept at home. That the natural biological function of feeding a baby with ones body is disgusting, should be kept behind closed doors, that it’s perverted. You’re isolating a group of people, making women cry with shame. Is that the kind of person you want to be? Why not just take a look, raise your eyebrows at the rare sighting. Hell, why not take a second look for good measure? Then just resume whatever it was you were doing, completely unscathed from the horrifying ordeal. Maybe next time it won’t be such a biggie.
‘A baby attached to the breast? Nobody wants to see that!’ You’re wrong. I do. I want to see it everywhere. I want to see it in the street, on the television, in children’s books, on the bus, up a mountain. I want to see babies being fed wherever they want to eat and wherever a mother wants to feed them. It’s most likely just *you* that doesn’t want to see it. The majority of people in that restaurant/library/shopping mall won’t have even noticed.
‘If she can get her boob out for the baby to suck on in a cafe then I’ll get my penis out for a woman to suck on in a cafe.’ No. Just, no. Likening the act of nursing an infant to one of sexual pleasure? Pretty low. One of these acts is legal, the latter, not so much. Feel free to try getting a blow job in public, it’d be great if you could prove my point. And I’m sure the police officer would love your reasoning. Comparing breasts, designed for nourishing a child, to a sex organ is just idiotic. Where were you when they discussed basic human biology at school? Although if your school was anything like most, breastfeeding wasn’t even discussed. I can’t fault you for that.
If you don’t want to see natural, every day parenting when you leave your home, don’t go out. It’s the best way to avoid suffering disgust and displeasure and means you’ll be able to each your lunch without being grossed out. And while we’re at it, stay off Twitter too. #AintNobodyGotTimeForThat
Exclusively Pumping Breast Milk by Stephanie Casemore
This review has been a long time coming. It’s taken a while for me to read as I’m now the other side of this pumping journey and have found it quite emotional to look back. Oh how I wish I had known about this book, and the wonderful Stephanie, 31 months ago when I needed guidance and support that was so hard to find.
The book is very obviously written by a mother that knows what she’s talking about, without being patronising. Who knows more about exclusively pumping, the practicalities, the emotions, than a woman that’s been there herself? It’s a comforting reminder that many others are on the same journey. It’s not written by a cold, emotionless health care professional, but a mother that has also faced the battles and learned a lot along the way.
Exclusively Pumping Breast Milk touches on a wide variety of topics in the exclusively pumping spectrum, from the science of breastfeeding (mind blowing!) to D-MER. Subtitles help point you in the direction of the subject you need at a glance if you’re in a hurry for information. Perfect for steadying middle of the night wobbles, or if expressing needs to commence hurriedly.
Stephanie is fabulous at presenting both sides of an argument, the pros and cons of dropping a pump, for example, and then giving tips to help make the decision, rather than leaving the reader hanging. There’s a wonderful balance between the passion for breast milk and pumping, and the harsh realities of it, meaning that mothers go into this with their eyes open, prepared for the hard work, but with a fire in their bellies to make it through.
I’m truly devastated to not have had this book with me on my pumping journey, it would have been a most welcome and essential companion. I haven’t been paid to do this review and I don’t do lip service, so when I say that I’d recommend this book to every pumping mama, I mean it. It’s my hope that midwives, health visitors and lactation consultants all read this book, to enable them to better support women facing breast feeding struggles, mothers that balance breast feeding with work, mothers with a whole myriad of reasons for exclusively pumping.
You can buy Stephanie Casemores wonderful book here.
Read more about my own pumping journey here.
An era is defined as being a significant period of time, and that’s exactly what the last 31 months have been for me. They’ve been some of the most turbulent, emotional, traumatic and significant months of my life. I’ve sobbed until I thought my heart might split in two, I’ve been mentally fragile and at times unstable, I’ve been physically traumatised and forever altered as a person.
I very much expected my life to change with the arrival of a baby. I anticipated some level of sleep deprivation, a small amount of physical pain and a shift in my outlook on life. What I got was so much more.
It never crossed my mind that I would spend more than two and a half years attached to a breast pump. I’d naively assumed that determination and positivity would be enough to successfully breast feed. I thought that formula was the plan B if it didn’t work out, and that I’d be ok with that. In reality, I couldn’t feed my new baby daughter, and in my desperation to avoid artificial milk and provide her with my own, I stumbled upon exclusively pumping.
The weeks, months and years that followed were swept up in the routine of pumping, feeding, cleaning. The counting of ounces and experimenting to increase supply. I was caught up in a blur of sadness, grief, stubbornness, ill mental health and, eventually, blogging. The breast pump became a fifth limb, breastfeeding websites became my temporary bible, strangers on the Internet became my family.
I’ll always hold sadness that the experience wasn’t the one that I’d hoped for. Perhaps a reason for the struggling will one day become clear. Am I sad that Moo no longer drinks my breast milk? Yes. I would have liked to have provided it for her for as long as she wanted milk before bed. Am I upset that I’m no longer pumping? Hell no. As wonderful as my Medela Freestyle was, I was sick of the sight of it. Connecting it all, washing it all, taking it away with me, the repetitive noise. Ugh.
I’ve suffered a loss. I’ve been broken at times, unsure of what to do or how to function. I’ve cried more tears than I thought it was physically possible to produce. But, I’ve gained too. I’ve got more determination than I ever knew I had. I’ve much more empathy for and understanding of mothers who can’t or don’t breast feed. I’ve acquired some scientific knowledge. I’ve completed a peer supporters course. I’ve met some wonderful, uplifting women. All of these things are gifts given to me from my suffering. Gifts that I’m immensely grateful for.
I shall take these gifts and use them well, as I move into this new, pump free era.
The channel 4 hit show One a Born Every Minute returns tonight. I’m sure that thousands of women will be tuning in. Those that are expecting their first child, desperate to absorb any birth related information, hoping to prepare themselves for the big event. Others may be mothers reminiscing about the most wonderful day, the day that changed their lives forever. Remembering their empowering labour, the moment the fresh, vernix covered baby was placed on their chest, their partners elated face as their shaking hands cut the umbilical cord.
I won’t be watching One Born Every Minute.
I loved it pre-pregnancy and whilst expecting. I recorded and watched it almost religiously, the highlight of my TV week. So well produced, fast paced, emotive and captivating. Hats off to the team behind it, the dedicated midwives and the women who volunteered to have the momentous occasion filmed. And then I gave birth, and things changed.
My birth wasn’t like many portrayed on television. And I can understand why an experience like mine isn’t often aired. Traumatic and a medical emergency, the scenes were more like something from a bloody slasher horror movie than a heart warming moment of life entering the world. Pre eclampsia, episiotomy, third degree tear, ventouse, postpartum hemorrhage, general anesthetic and surgery weren’t in my birth plan. I’ve been deeply affected by the experience. I have flash backs of midwives bearing their weight down on my stomach, trying to stem the flow of blood, begging the surgical team to save my womb, my body shaking uncontrollably as I went into shock.
One Born Every Minute has lost its magic for me. I’m either terrified, my heart racing with anxiety as the scenes on screen remind me of aspects of my birth, or I’m insanely jealous. Why are those women having such an easy time of it? Why didn’t I get a water birth? Look at her, getting immediate skin to skin, what a cow. No one wants to be that person. The person that resents others for not suffering as she did. I wish that I still embraced birth as the miraculous, natural, empowering event that it is, or should be. But I just can’t. I now fear it, knowing how dangerous and soul destroying it can be. I want to celebrate with women, build them up, but I have to bite my tongue so as not to completely terrify them.
Maybe in the future I’ll be able to watch it again, to feel the emotion that I used to, sobbing into my handkerchief in happiness. But for now, I avoid the anxiety triggering programme.
You can read my full birth story here.
I wonder how much of the way I feel is depression, the monster that takes over every rational thought, and how much of it is genuine feeling? Does my mental ill health make me wish I’d never had a child, or do I simply regret the decision? I have times of such frustration, feelings of entrapment, I’m suffocating. Followed by feelings of intense guilt. And then the seemingly obvious solution rears its head – suicide.
I can’t wait for Moo to go to school so that I can be alone. I enjoy the novelty moments of being a parent, the brief cuddles, the funny one liners of a typical two year old. But it soon wears thin and ultimately, I look forward to being away from her. She’s a great kid, a delight to be around at times, but I don’t want to look after her.
These thoughts are then followed by horrific shame and guilt. What kind of parent doesn’t want their own child? How can anyone not want to spend time with such a beautiful little girl? How can I look into her innocent blue eyes and feel this way? Don’t I know that there are women longing for a child like mine? Aren’t I grateful that she’s healthy? How will I ever explain this to her if she were to find out I felt this way?
Are these the thoughts of someone with mental health issues? Or are these my genuine feelings about being a mother? How can I differentiate? If this is the depression, post natal or otherwise, then there’s hope. It’s treatable. I can change my medication and have therapy and try to alter my mind set. But if this is how I feel… What the fuck do I do? Answers on a post card, please.
I’m upset. I’m really upset. It’s all over. That ridiculously minuscule slither of hope that Moo would breast feed is gone. I never got to breast feed and most likely never will. I never got to snuggle in a tiny baby close, listen to the rhythmic suckling, play gymnurstics, have sleepy, cuddly, milk drunk times.
I bang on about the possibility of bottle feeding being intimate, that she got the good stuff anyway, but who am I kidding? I feel fucking robbed. And who do I blame? Who took that experience from me? Society and it’s easy, convenient, sleeping-through-the-night formula feeding ideals? The health care profession and it’s lack of funding and support? Fate or God or destiny or whichever higher power chooses the path we take?
This has damn near crushed me. I can’t explain why I care about it so much or why I hold on to all of this. I don’t know if it’s stubbornness or biology or basic stupidity. All I know is that it hurts really bad. One half of me (the mentally healthy half) wants to brush it off, start the next chapter, focus my energies on the parenting adventures to come. The other half (the winning one, that shouts much louder) wants to cry for all eternity.
I contemplated getting up tomorrow and expressing, continuing to exclusively pump. I can’t stop, I mustn’t stop, it’s all that I have. But that’s not what I really want. I never wanted a fucking pump in the first place. I wanted better support, better health care, more knowledge, a tongue tie division sooner, a trauma free birth. What I really wanted was to breast feed my child. Such a simple, raw, natural, basic act. That’s all I wanted.
Tomorrow morning will start in the same way that every day has started for the last two and a half years. I’ll begrudgingly wake up, attach the bottles to the Medela Freestyle pump and sit listening to the buzzing machine while reading the latest headlines and checking Twitter. The only difference being that I’ll be pumping for the last time. The very last drops of breast milk will leave my body, and along with it will go years of a daily routine and the dream that I’ll ever breast feed.
I feel a pang of sadness about it. The same sort of feeling you get as the day of leaving school approaches. The relief of new found freedom mixed with heavy nostalgia. Letting go of what feels like all you’ve ever known, the start of a new adventure on your journey. A huge chunk of my life and identity will be gone, hopefully making way for new things. When one door opens, and all that.
I feel better about it than I thought I might. I’ve known this day was coming, a person can’t exclusively pump forever (although the thought has crossed my mind) and I’d assumed I’d be an emotional wreck. The calm is unnerving, I’m sure the grief will creep up on me unexpectedly. I’m prepared for feelings of deep regret and nights of inconsolable weeping. Brace yourselves for blog posts that will follow suit.
I’ll savour every moment of the pump in the morning. I’ll take a selfie to capture it. Those last precious sips of breast milk will be given to Moo before bed, she’ll be ignorant to the fact it’ll be the last she’ll ever drink.
I actually wrote this post in July 2013 and never published it as I wasn’t sure if it ‘fit’ well into my blog. But My Petit Canard started this ‘I Love’ series off, and Redhead Babyled tagged me to give it a go.
So here it is. A list of things that I love, that bring me great joy, that make me feel alive, when, at times, I quite often don’t want to exist.
Things I Love:
The pitter patter of rain and knowing that its nourishing the ground, replenishing the Earth, enabling food to grow and wildlife to live.
Thunder and lightening and that kind of slanting heavy rain, with wind that makes the house shake. The sound of hail pinging down the chimney and feeling safe and snug in bed.
Laying down. Easily my favourite pastime. The weight of my head on a soft cool pillow and the duvet cover pulled tight over my shoulder.
Eating Lotus biscuit spread from the jar with a spoon or cheeky finger. The naughtiness making sure it tastes even better than it does melted on hot toast.
Being a passenger in a car. Quiet time to think with the world racing by.
People watching. Marvelling at the enormity of this world, knowing that every single person has a whole life. Guessing what family they have, what their homes might look like, wondering what their values and beliefs are.
Food. The enormous variety of things to taste, the complicated flavours and textures. Sharing a meal with friends or family, time around the table to connect.
Beautiful fabric. Limitless possibilities of things to make. Prints and patterns, spots and stripes, stars, animals, waves, paisley, retro…
Quirky shops. At first it may all seem like tat, but on closer inspection, it’s treasure. Trinkets and gadgets galore. Vintage clothes, precious antiques. Mismatched tea cups, costume jewellery, wooden toys.
Books. The smell, the feel, the sound pages make as they’re turned. Total escapism. New worlds unfolding in your mind. Looking at the spines all lined up on shelves that start at the bottom and go all the way up.
Music. The feeling of bursting into song, really letting rip at the top of your lungs, that glorious feeling. A haunting melody, witty lyrics, connecting with another person as you hum the same tune.
The seasons. Summer with its drawn out days. The warmth of sun on your skin and the way it smells. Beaches and parks and al fresco dining. Candles lit in the garden, picking fruit. Winter with its crunchy leaves and fireworks. The excitement as Christmas draws near and the possibility of snow. Wrapping up in hand knitted garments, hands in pockets and lighting the open fire.
Coffee. The smell, rich and sweet. The bustle of a coffee shop, hoping to get the sofa by the window. The noise of milk being steamed, the warmth of a mug in your hand. 5 minutes peace.
A deep bath. Cautiously stepping in, lowering down slowly, feeling muscles relax. Escaping into a trashy magazine, the smell of soap and the feel of smooth, wet skin. Time for me.
The words ‘I love you too’.
The total pumped today is barely three quarters of an ounce. 0.75oz. That’s it. I’ve been two days without Domperidone and reduced my pump to 10 minutes. It’s a negligible amount to many, but it’s enough for me to save. It’s stored in the fridge, ready to be topped up with cows milk for tonight.
I’d wanted to continue pumping until Moo no longer wanted milk to drink at bedtime, but after several failed attempts, this isn’t happening any time soon. I’ve had enough of pumping. It sucks. It’s not a good way to start the day.
I’m very concerned that I’ll regret stopping when I look back at this in a few weeks time, particularly when I’m in a stronger place mentally. But a person can only do what feels right at the time. The community mental health team doctor has recommended this and in a way it feels like I’ve been given permission to stop.
There’s one bag of milk left in the freezer. I’m tempted to leave it there forever as a momento. But why waste a bag of the good stuff for the sake of sentimentality? I’ll defrost it later, and use it up tomorrow.
Only four days to go and this chapter will be closed.