I am 22 weeks pregnant now. As I prepare our lives for baby #4 one aspect of motherhood is creeping up behind me: breastfeeding. Each child before was bottle fed. I wanted to nurse them, I wanted to feel that bond all my sisters, friends and forums talked about.
I would try with each baby and every time I couldn't do it. Flashbacks.
Flashbacks to Lana's* (name of my biological mother, also changed) many boyfriends. Each had a "special love" for me. A love that would continue to grow as my body did. One man told me when I was 9, "You're so pretty and beautiful, I'm waiting for your breasts to grow so I can really show you how much I love you."
I was scared. When I was 10.5 years old I was already a B cup. I wore big shirts and tried to tape them flat. No one could ever know I had them.
My secret didn't last for too long. My brothers and their friends had all been drinking one night. I went back to their room to see if Lana had bought any food for us kids before she left. I don't know how I ended up being pushed around between their friends. They were taunting me and laughing at me. One of them grabbed my shirt and it completely ripped. Exposing my budding chest. I ran out of the room in tears and went to the back room, normally occupied by Lana's live-in boyfriend.
I woke up and noticed it was dark outside. Sitting at the foot of the bed was Tubs. My brother's 17 year old friend. He told me he was waiting to tell me about my beautiful body and perky chest. I grabbed the blanket and held it over me. I prayed. Prayed to the God I had been learning about at Twin Falls Community Christian Church. Surely God would stop what seemed to be inevitable. Yet, to my disappointment He did/could not.
Tubs was tall and muscular and blocking the exit. Within a split second, he had removed my shirt and was grabbing, touching, and kissing the very essence of my developing womanhood I tried so hard to protect. He found every chance he could to violate me. Between him and the many others after I hated my breasts.
I saw no value in them...no point to them.
Now, years later I'm a mother. 3 times a mother. And each time I thought about nursing my beautiful babies I died inside. I tried nursing them each, in hopes that I could have that bond, they could have the nourishment. But I could not escape the flood of memories and ill feelings nursing brought to my heart and mind.
For four years I've dealt with the judgement of my "choice" to not breastfeed. I wish it was my choice. I wish I was apart of a movement of mothers who were "pro-choice" on breastfeeding. My ability to nurse and nourish my children was stripped from me when I was just a child.
I've had family members pressure me and family members support me. I've had nurses tell me my children wouldn't be able to compete as well academically if I didn't nurse. I had a breastfeeding consultant, after I rejected her offer to help, tell my newborn that "mommy just doesn't know better. I'm sorry".
Our baby boy is due in February. I look up info online, look at breast pumps and try to imagine myself in an innocent moment of mother-child intimacy...I get knots. Those knots turn to aches in my chest and turn into tears.
I've learned one really big lesson out of all this: love is unconditional.
I do not think my children love me any less because I could not nurse them. I do not love them any less because I could not nurse them. Most importantly we are bonded together through our love. They are each unique, brilliant, beautifully sweet children. I do not think, for one minute, our relationship has suffered or their health, because they were formula fed.
Every woman has a story, has a reason for their mothering styles. When it comes to breastfeeding I do not believe we should judge others for what they choose to do or not choose to do.
In the end I choose to be the best mother I know how to be. I choose to educate myself, to love my children unconditionally and give them the best that I HAVE TO OFFER.
With every baby that I've brought home I've felt lost and saddened that I could not nurse them. I've always seen my inability to do so as a bond stolen. It is that feeling I am dreading this 4th time around. My prayer is that, despite questioning nurses, doctors and strangers I remember this one thing...
The greatest bond I will have with my children will be created through the honest, nourishing, sacrificing love
that only I can give them as their mother.
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