How to believe that your body can | Our breastfeeding experience Round 2

Believe that your body can.

At least that’s what I’m telling myself. And it’s working.

For three and a half years, I’ve been lifting weight. Heavy weight, and each time I look at the barbell with iron on the ends, I think to myself, “My body is stronger than I believe.”

Believe that your body can, and it will.

Even Winnie the Pooh says it, “You are braver than you believe, smarter than you seem, and smarter than you think.” 

Actually, I have something similar tattooed on my back, and it’s the saying I whisper to my kids every night – You are brave and you are kind and you are smart.”

When Joey was a newborn, I had just started thinking this way. It was a new way of thinking for me, one that I was unfamiliar with and it felt foreign, and in a way, inadvertently useless. I had never truly believed in the power of affirmation, especially to one’s self. 

Sure, my love language is words of affirmation. But I always believed that was a consequence of being told all the negative things about myself as a kid. Bullying does crazy things to your mind, and it stays with you throughout your adult life if you let it.

Bullying doesn’t stop either. And if you can’t give yourself all the affirmations humanly possible, then that bullying will stop you in your tracks. Add on the idea of motherhood and mom shame, mom guilt, and the massive, crippling sensation that you are doing everything wrong, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster.

Frankly, this is where I was back then, when Joey was an infant. I had just started believing in myself. Believing in my body. I had been told for years that I could not bare children, yet here I was, with a newborn I had birthed, and still doubting my body’s capability to raise him.

My body is stronger than I believe.

The sleep deprivation and the sore nipples and the crying, so much crying, was all I felt my body could take. Until it wasn’t, and I prevailed, and my son thrived and I made it through the fog.

My body is stronger than I believe.

I loathed breastfeeding. It was uncomfortable and awkward and Joey never stopped asking for more. I doubted my body’s ability to feed him adequately, and eventually moved to a mixture of pumping and formula, which lasted all of a few weeks before my self-doubt carried over into the pump and we went to strictly formula. Which was the best decision we ever made – hello happy momma, meet happy baby.

Here’s what I don’t believe:

I do not believe that if I had “believed” that my body could produce enough milk and “believed” that Joey was a good nurser that breastfeeding would have worked for us.

No, what I believe is if I had believed that my body, and brain, knew best, that I would have had a less traumatic experience making the transition from breast to bottle. 

Shame, and I mean shame inflicted upon yourself, is the worst type of shame. No one can make you feel worse than you feel when you are ashamed of yourself. I felt so ashamed of my body’s inability to nourish my child, and enjoy it while doing so.

Believe that your body can.

Believe that your body can overcome trauma, can be strong, can tell you things you may not completely understand. Believe your body when it tells you, “I need an outlet; I need nourishment; I need to do something different in order to nourish your happy soul.”

And then I changed. I have spent the last three years challenging myself to love my body in all its forms. From overweight and infertile to postpartum and hormonal and finally to strong and trimmed and pregnant again. This is my body, and this is how I choose to treat it. With the power to tell me what’s best. My body, my mind, my soul, as one living and breathing being with the power to live my life.

I believe that my body can. I believe that my body can lift heavy weight. Can breastfeed a child. Can carry a baby and can heal even stronger afterwards.

I also believe that my body can tell me what’s best, to not carry a baby,, to not breastfeed a baby, to be weak and fragile and vulnerable. I believe that my body is the best tell. The best at knowing. 

My body is stronger than I believe, and when I asked Adam if it was OK that I didn’t breastfeed Cece after she was born, he asked me if I was willing to try.

“No, not if it is as horrific as it was with Joey.”

He told me that I at least had to find that out for myself. 

I spent the last nine months preparing my body for birth and postpartum. I meditated and continued to lift weight and prayed for my baby and myself. I wanted to know if this was right. I selfishly prayed for an easy baby, for one that would nurse well and sleep easily and have a contentment about her that made me swoon.

I was content with myself. Felt at ease with the idea of making any decision that felt right in the moment – for birth, breastfeeding, sleep. To listen to my body when it told me something. I have been speaking, practicing for three years. It was time to listen.

Upon CeCe’s arrival, she latched immediately. Premature and so tiny and quiet and eyes closed. Began nursing and I melted. This was what my body was telling me. It was natural, unforced, and instinct. 

To say that I believe our bodies can nourish our babies is naive. I don’t, didn’t, always believe that. I believe that our bodies know what’s best in order to keep us aligned with our soul and minds. And this time, my body knew it best to breastfeed. It knew best to do otherwise with Joey. 

I don’t have any advice for how to make the experience better. I don’t have any advice on how to transition from breast to bottle, breastmilk to formula. I just took each step as it came and tried not to doubt myself. My only advice is to listen to your body, whichever way it’s telling you. Whichever way also nourishes you, not just your baby.

Believe that your body can, and will, tell you.

Our Breastfeeding Journey, Round Two

CeCe basically came out nursing. Even at almost a month old and still not at her due date, she basically leaps out of my arms in order to find my boob and latch on. 

It was unforced and easy. I nursed her around the clock for the first 48 hours, praying each time that her blood sugar was great enough for the nurses to smile at her next check, and being sure her tummy was full for weight check every 6 hours. I wanted CeCe home with us, and the only way to get that luxury was her to eat, and eat a lot. 

We did the same thing once we were home, and I didn’t mind one bit. With number two, you kind of realize that this season is so temporary, and staying up all night to feed the baby isn’t as bad as you remember. In fact, this time around, I have thoroughly enjoyed the quiet and dark moments with her, just the two of us, listening to the sound of her eating and spending time with God and the crickets. 

Breastfeeding has a bigger purpose this time around. I feel like getting CeCe growing is my priority right now, and breastfeeding is the way to do that. With Joey, he was gaining weight while basically starving, so it didn’t feel as imperative. This necessity mentality with CeCe has changed my insight, and given me some motivation beyond the nourishment breastfeeding provides in general. 

Finally, I don’t feel as naive, or ashamed. I will without a doubt whip my boob out in public to feed the baby, and I am much more comfortable in my own body. I don’t care if people see my belly rolls while I nurse, or if it takes longer than it should.. Because guess what, I’m probably going to be late anyway – might as well be late and have a fed and happy baby. 

Preparedness is key. I now have all the right clothes, and I’m not struggling to get a boob out of a dress or something ridiculous, because I own appropriate clothes. I also have no shame in nursing pads or ugly but comfortable nursing bras. I leak, and that’s ok. It dries. I have milk stains on my sheets and shirts and pants (let’s be honest), and it’s part of the season I’m in. I can figure out how to get them out later.

Finally, I am keeping my milk supply up because I no longer care about losing the baby weight right now, and I also have food readily available all the time. I eat constantly, which to be honest, is a lot easier when you work from home and have a stocked fridge. And I also know that the abs and the toned legs and the perky arms will come back over time, and I have no need to rush the process at the expense of losing my milk supply. I can feed my baby and work out and eat, all during the same season. It’s called balance and I’m terrible at it but at least I’m trying. 

Key Items:

Medela manual hand pump.

I pump after every nursing session (as long as we are at home and it’s not the middle of the night). I love that this pump allows me to not be hooked up to a wall, it’s silent, and I can walk around the house attending to a toddler and my life while pumping. Win. 

Nursing pads. 

Don’t really care what brand, and though I would love to say that I use the reusable, washable ones, I feel icky if I don’t change them every few hours. So I use the disposable and change them as often as I want, and it always makes me feel fresh and clean when I do. 

Oversized nursing sports bras.

My girlfriends gave me theirs, and they all have bigger boobs than me, and I feel overly ok about that. My nursing bras are all sports style and big on me, and I love it. I don’t feel constricted, and they are not ever cutting into my lats or my boobs or my shoulders. 

Nursing camis.

I have like 13 and totally unashamed about it. They are all black or grey or white and I plan on buying more if I need them. I wear one every night and all day long if I don’t leave the house. Actually, even if I do leave the house. It’s 106 degrees here and I have a baby to feed.

Fan.

Breastfeeding equals hormones which equals sweating. All. The. Time. Fan is on full blast at all times and the rest of the house is freezing cold but I’m comfy. And not sweating through my sheets which is what matters most. 

Planning.

I don’t have a plan, and it’s the best plan. I plan to nurse however long it works for us, and whenever she is hungry. That’s the plan, and it feels GLORIOUS. Actually, I take that back. I plan to drink my glass of wine at nighttime and let Adam give her a small bottle at bedtime from milk I’ve pumped an hour earlier. That’s the plan.

Everyone’s experience nursing a baby is different, and that’s the beauty of it. It’s different for each baby, each mom, each pregnancy. I feel so lucky, honored, blessed, to have two very different experiences, and for the first to give me the strength and wisdom for the second. I feel even more blessed to have a second experience at all, and I suppose that probably makes most of the difference in general.

Believe that your body can, and it will.