My daughter’s name is Eleanor, but no one really calls her that. Her big brother calls her “baby seeter” and melts my heart with his constant excitement to see her and his toddler accent. Her dad and I call her Rory (yes, I love Gilmore Girls that much). When she’s yelling about something, I call her Roary because I love a (bad) pun. Depending on who you ask—grandfathers, great-grandmothers, aunts, uncles, cousins—she is Rory, Grace, Gracie, Nell, Ellie or Princess. My mom calls her Miss Piggy though, and of course my mom is right.
This little girl LOVES to eat. She eats like it’s her job. And maybe it is. It seems to be her job to help me heal from the postpartum depression and anxiety I had with her brother and to help me learn to live with the PTSD.
I couldn’t breastfeed my son.
Technically that’s not true. I had milk, an overabundance actually. I could do it. Yet every time I tried, it hurt worse than I can even begin to describe. There was physical pain that radiated from his mouth up through my breast.
There was also wave after wave of anxiety, fear, and panic that gripped me each time. This thing that was supposed to be so natural and bonding was brutal and brought me to tears multiple times a day. I saw lactation consultants and went to support groups. I talked to my pediatrician and tried a nipple shield, every hold imaginable, and everyone’s grandmother’s advice. It always ended in excruciating pain, panic, confusion, and tears.
Eventually I stopped breastfeeding and began pumping. I called this my Bessie period.
I do that a lot; turn things into a joke that actually really hurt me. I felt like a failure, like a wimp, like I didn’t deserve to be called his mother. I did a great job of beating myself up.
Before our Little Miss Piggy was born, I didn’t really have a lot of hope that I would be able to breastfeed her. I knew that I wanted to try, but I also wanted to avoid having expectations of myself that could be crushed like they had been the first time.
I had a scheduled c-section that went like clockwork. We were in the recovery room in no time and my baby was on my chest. My doula told me to just keep breathing and just see what she did.
What she did was start healing me.
My tiny little person did the funniest crablike shuffle you’ve ever seen while making the first of the little snuffle-snorts that would come to be her signature. She found the breast. She latched on. All I did was support her.
And that’s our relationship today. I breastfeed on demand and she demands. That is what works for us. After everything I went through, it amazes me each time I click open the catch on my nursing bra. Each pound that she gains feels like a victory. Those rolls on her thighs? I did that.
Am I staring into her eyes lovingly as she nurses every single time? Nope. But in the middle of the night when I’m nursing and watching Netflix, or scrolling through blogs on my phone, and she does that snuffle-snort or she stops and burps only to start again, in those moments I stop and laugh and breastfeed at the same time. That feels like magic.