To my 2am tears,
Nobody told you it would be this hard. The woman at the breastfeeding class passed you a plastic doll and told you how to position baby onto breast – and WHAM, baby was latched on. Simple as that! Yet it wasn’t for you, was it?
Your baby’s first feed seems like a distant memory and you kept asking, “am I doing it right?” But looking down at his dark, thick hair, his fingers entwined in yours, was a moment you will never forget.
The days that followed, you contorted your boobs and body and nipples (that got HUGE) to get your baby to latch on. And it was uncomfortable at times. Painful.
You will battle with nipple shields until they are thrown at your husband and his worthless nipples. You will want to give up, then the midwife will say your baby has put on weight and you will want to scream I DID THAT! So you will want to keep going. You will buy 500 breastfeeding pillows. Only to end up using a normal fucking pillow – which will go with you everywhere – though you dare feed in public yet (and are always, sadly scared to). You will try cradle position, cross-cradle, lying down, ‘laid back breastfeeding’ (note: this does not work for your droopy side boobs), rugby ball hold – which will work for you. You will get other mums to show you how to breastfeed, you will watch YouTube video after YouTube video – and some days you will think you’ve cracked it. Then he won't latch on properly and you’ll feel like you’ve failed.
You’ll think you aren’t producing enough milk as all baby wants to do is feed, feed, feed. Then you find out about cluster feeding at it will almost end you. You will be so exhausted that you will watch your husband snore in the night while you feed your son and resent him and his uninterrupted sleep. But something will keep you going. You set a goal of 6-months and come rain or shine – or cracked nipples you will fucking get there.
Lansinoh will be your best friend. You won’t understand why breast pads are so small so will use nappies instead. Making you feel and look even more sexier than when you had a giant pad on for weeks post-birth.
You will cry. A lot.
But then at 8-weeks, something others kept saying would happen – will. It clicks! You will still be exhausted and living in a biscuit tin but nursing will no longer be scary – or something you dread. It starts to become part of you. And those moments in the night, that sometimes were so lonely, are also the moments you will miss so much when they're over. The moments where it was just you and your baby – just the two of you. He would hold your hand and you would feel a bond that you couldn’t ever put into words. Just you two against the world. Because in all the chaos, it is the quiet time you both need. Remember it's not just about milk, you're his comfort too.
But you will want a break. At times, you will feel like you sacrificed a lot – tequila, your boobs, just some time without your wabs out. And you will try desperately to get baby to take a bottle after spending hours expressing – but your baby just won't take it. But that's okay.
You will make it to six-months! Why not try for a year? And then FUCKING MASTITIS. Motherfucker.
But every feed you drop as baby has more solids, you will cry. Though at times it is a welcome relief, it will be hard to let go and you will feel like the less he nurses, the less he needs you. Then your baby turns one – but you want to carry on a little longer - and he still wants to nurse. Despite the comments and the disapproving remarks: “you’re still feeding him?" "Yes, Carol, I fucking am.” Everyone is judged, however they feed their baby – just remember it’s your choice, you keep doing what you feel is best for you and your baby.
Then as the months go on, you get down to two feeds a day. (Two feeds – I know, imagine that?!) And those are the feeds you will treasure the most. In the morning when he is still sleepy and you fit together like a jigsaw and then before bed, when he falls asleep by your side.
Now with baby number 2 on the way (don't panic), you know it is time to let go – for you and your baby. Especially now nursing a toddler has become a wrestling match of hair pulling, biting and somersaults.
17-months of tears.
17-months of nipple cream.
17-months of leaking.
17-months of magic.
17-months of joy.
17-months of love.
And that last feed, you will sob. And you will say: “that was the last time I will feed you son. But it has been an absolute privilege”. And it may sound corny and ridiculous to others – but it really will feel like a privilege. And an absolute joy. And for days, weeks you will feel so lost. A part of you is over. A time where it was just you and your boy and nobody else in the world, is over. And you won't be able to put it into words what the experience has meant to you, but you will try. And you will miss it. So much. You will miss his fingers entwined in yours as he lay by your side. You will miss his stillness. You will miss the moments when he would sometimes stop for a break and look up at you and smile and you’d feel like your heart would burst. You will miss it all. You will even miss the fucking breast pads. You will just miss the moments that at times you dreaded, you wanted to end.
Because for you, though one of the hardest things you will ever do - it is one of the absolute best. And I know you’re crying now at 2am because you just feel like you will never get it. But you will. And I promise you, that when it’s all over – and your milk has dried up. All you will want to do is go back to the beginning and start again. And it will break your heart this little chapter that has been such an important part of both of your lives has ended.
So treasure the moments you are missing now. And stop giving yourself a hard time. You’re doing your best. That’s all us mums are ever trying to do. And give yourself a little high five.
And he still needs you. He always will.
Royal Marine Wife. Mum to Rafe.