Losing Yourself in the World of Breastfeeding

I’ve talked a lot on social media lately about why I love breastfeeding my children, but not of my breastfeeding anxiety. I’m going on almost 23 months of my life spent breastfeeding between the two of them. I love that I was able to do this for them, and for myself, and I know reaching my 1-year goal with Hattie will feel just as wonderful as it did when I hit it with Jude. But breastfeeding isn’t all rainbows and sunshine. It’s hard – and I don’t just mean physically, because well, let’s face it: my boobs will never recover from this. Thank you to whomever decided when they were creating the human race that women should get saggy torpedo boobs from breastfeeding. I’m so glad I finally can beat someone up just by swinging my body side to side. Great job.

But I digress…

I’m just going to come right out and say it: I’m having a hard time. In my quest to be the perfect mom for my little girl, I lost a lot of myself. Mentally, I’m not all there. I’m forgetful. I avoid things I need to do because I can’t seem to find the same joy in them that I used to before her. I’m anxious most of the time. I’m stressed out. I’m easily agitated. I’m messy. I’m unkempt 80% of the time. I haven’t seen a hairdresser in almost a year, and my feet haven’t seen a pedicurist since before the age of Hattie. I’m lacking in all the areas – but especially, in self-care both physically and mentally.

 Before babies, I had a problem with anxiety. It was one I was made fun of for in high school. It was something that made others terrified. EMS and I became BFFs. It was what I hoped was a phase.

It wasn’t.

My adult life kept my anxiety at bay. But then my mom got diagnosed with MS. I felt the creep of anxiety coming back again. When I got pregnant with Jude, it sort of dissipated.

In my life, the one constant for me is that I know that when I’m pregnant and during the beginning stages of having a new baby, I’m rid of anxiety. I am in bliss knowing that I have this new life. Babies bring me unbelievable joy that seems to crawl into my brain and beat the shit out of the anxiety that was once stored there. It’s gone. A sweet, pink child is in my body or my arms and I am peaceful. It’s the only time that I’ve ever felt this way. And it’s now happened twice.

When my mom was sick, and after she died, I was filled with a heavy sadness. It wasn’t just a run-of-the-mill feeling of being sad. This was a hot, powerful, all-consuming weight in my chest. I could feel it pierce my heart with every breath, threatening to consume me should I move too quickly.

Grief was a new kind of friend, one that brought with it my old friend of Anxiety. Grief started before my mom actually passed away. That’s the thing so many don’t realize. You begin to grieve once they become sick. I wasn’t necessarily grieving her life lost, but I was grieving the images in my head – the ones where I was fifty and she was a great grandmother holding her great grandbabies, or I was birthing my second child and she was holding my hand, or I was walking down the aisle and she was crying in the first row. Grieving was something I was starting to become familiar with even before my mom took her last breath.

Soon after my mom passed, after my life started to go downhill because I was so consumed with grief that I couldn’t even figure out how I was supposed to love anymore, something wonderful happened.

Hattie.

My precious girl began to grow inside of me. And honestly, I was terrified. But from the moment that test turned positive, I knew it was a girl. There’s something I read once that suggests how lovely it would be for the universe to give you back your mother as your daughter. This is what I’ve always clung to throughout my pregnancy and postpartum. This is my mother reborn again through my daughter. This is my second chance at having that mother/daughter relationship. And even though this is different, this is me being the mom now, this is something sacred and I cherish it more than anyone realizes.

But even this kind of cosmic power can’t starve off my anxiety, especially my breastfeeding anxiety. I have been stressed, more than I care to admit, about making it to this 1-year mark breastfeeding. I’ve given this child so much of me. As much as I love giving her this liquid gold, I need to feel like myself again. I need to stop looking at the clock and doing the math of when I last nursed or pumped. I need to be able to go to events without having to worry about whether I have enough milk in a bottle. I need to have me time again. I need to burn this pump. Okay, maybe not burn the pump, but you get the idea.

Extended breastfeeding is great for some moms, and maybe we will keep out night-time nursing sessions for a while, but for my mental and physical health, I need this year to be over. I’ve hardly worked out this year because I was scared of it affecting my supply. I need endorphins. I need adrenaline. I need to be myself.

So if I’ve been unavailable…

 If I’ve ignored you. If I’ve promised you something and then never did it. If I seemed to not be myself. It’s because I’ve been anxious. It’s because I made a promise to myself and everything on top of it pulled me down. It’s because I haven’t been taking care of myself. It’s because breastfeeding is harder than it looks.

Cheers to all of you mamas who do it without having these kinds of problems. I wish I was you. But I’m not. And I’m okay with that. I’ll be me again soon. <3

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