I used to look at how other parents did it. I watched the mums at the groups, lifting up a soft knit sweater and effortlessly latching their babies, then leaning back comfortably and reaching with one hand for a cup of tea or a biscuit, skilfully balanced on the arm of the chair.
I saw the mum’s who placed their slumbering full-tummied milk-drunk cherubs on a playmat with excuciating ease – and the wee precious love would just stay there asleep, amidst the chattering chaos of baby group.
I heard the mum’s talk about how their babies were in the next size up in clothes, a month too soon. I heard them say, “he slept through again!”, and “he loves his moses basket” and internally, I would wince. I would go home and cry.
In the early days of having my eldest and all the problems we faced with feeding and sleep, I felt bitterly, vengefully jealous of all these mum’s who seemed to have perfect “good” babies that fed beautifully and slept with such simplicity it made my heart ache. I even felt like I hated some of them.
I look back now and I don’t recognise those thoughts or feelings as part of who I am. I was isolated and severely depressed and it took me awhile to get the support I really needed to enable us to breastfeed successfully – via combination feeding.
When I had Nova and his tongue tie caused his weight to falter temporarily I thought, “I can’t do this again” and all those old feelings of sadness, fear, and resentment came back as I saw, in my gorgeously supportive due date facebook group that all their breastfed bababies (in reality it was definitely NOT all of them) were feeding beautifully and everyone was having a bloody great time of it and I wasn’t. How f*cking unfair, I thought.
And I remembered what snapped me out of it last time. This quote. This riotously feminist slogan that reminded me that it was OK to celebrate the successes of others whilst simultaneously feeling sad that my journey was different to theirs.
It was NOT OK to feel hate, anger, resentment for these wonderful mums who either by luck, determination or design were (seemingly) having a much better time of it than me.
I know now, through years of working with families, that parenting is complicated. That supporting parents is nuanced. That we often hold very conflicting, difficult and painful emotions and internalise those feelings.
I know all too well the bitter sting of resentment when someone is celebrating their own breastfeeding successes. I know it from both sides, being the one angry that my time breastfeeding didn’t come easy, because I have often sat with women in their grief as they explain how they had to stop breastfeeding before they were ready. That they ‘failed’ to exclusively breastfeed. ‘Failed’ to breastfeed after a few days. ‘Failed’ to get baby to latch. Had a baby that ‘failed’ to thrive. That the traumatic early experiences they had with feeding had tainted their early parenting journey and made them anxious. Even that it stopped them having more children.
I realise, looking back, that some of those parents may not have had it easy at all – that was my perception. Maybe some had it *easier* than I did but that didn’t mean that they weren’t finding it hard. Many women have expressed to me that they find breastfeeding challenging for all sorts of reasons – even when feeding itself is going *well*. (We’ll talk about aversion another day) And those parents succeeding is great, I am absolutely here for it, we should all have the resources, support, infrastructure and confidence to succeed at breastfeeding or any other aspect of parenting – especially when we struggle at it.
The only real solution is compassion. For yourself, if you struggle with big, dark feelings about others when they celebrate their success. And compassion for others, when they share their pain, or when you don’t know the full story.
Sending love to you all x