Let me back up to say that having a baby is hard! Getting pregnant for some women is a huge undertaking. Many women wait years to see those two lines appear on the pregnancy test while others are lucky on the first try. What I have found during my time working with women who are breastfeeding or trying to breastfeed is that if getting pregnant was a challenge then they are hoping that the labor will be easy. If the labor is a struggle or doesn't go as expected then they hope that breastfeeding goes better. Many women arrive at the beginning of their breastfeeding journey with all of their hopes pinned on this going well.
I was once attending the birth of a client who had struggled to get pregnant with her first baby. Her doctor recommended an induction of labor and she and her husband had agreed. During the induction her water broke on its own. I remember the joy she showed that something had happened on its own and that she wasn't "broken." It was so eye-opening to see her joy in something that many women take for granted.
Today while working with a lovely first time mother and her baby she spoke of her birth experience and described it as "traumatic." I voiced for her what I have witnessed, that when a mother's birth experience doesn't go as planned breastfeeding often becomes more important. She was choked up while she nodded her head in agreement.
It is difficult for loved ones to understand. So often we hear loving partners, friends and relatives telling a mother whose birth did not go as planned that, "at least you have a healthy baby." Yes she has a healthy baby but is she ok? Is she emotionally ok? So many mothers have their feelings discounted because their baby is "healthy" and so what more can she ask for.
Why can't she ask for more? Why is it not alright for her to want an easy pregnancy, a smooth birth and a perfect postpartum experience? There is no reason that she can not ask for that. We should help to support her at whatever point along the way that we encounter her.
This brings me back to Ginger and I and to her breastfeeding experience. Breastfeeding is so much more than just feeding at the breast. Breastfeeding is love. Breastfeeding is comfort for the mother and baby. Breastfeeding is about bonding. Breastfeeding is about empowerment and seeing our baby growing from the food that we provide. Breastfeeding is about our experience as mothers.
The next time that you hear a mother speak of her struggles with fertility or her traumatic birth experience I hope that you will provide support and when she gets to the part about breastfeeding....remain a positive voice. Support her. Love her. Provide her with resources if she needs them and above all else honor her experience.