'And are you planning on breastfeeding?' Like most first time mums I'd only ever thought I'd breastfeed my baby, so replying with an oh yes' seemed like the natural response. Looking back on that moment, I wish I could have told my pre baby self that my god it'll be hard sometimes and you'll think, should I just get her on the bottle? But with all things that drive you slightly mad and leave you feeling emotionally exhausted it'll be so so worth it in the end.
I was gifted with a baby that seemed to know what she was doing almost from the moment she was born. I remember my husband going to the car to get some random baby item and him walking back in to find little one gobbling up those first few precious drops. A sort of smug feeling crept over me... Hurrah I'd done it, now what?
I wasn't naive during pregnancy, I knew about all the problems that many women go through when breastfeeding, tongue-ties, mastitis, cracked nipples, the list goes on. What I hadn't really given any thought to was the emotional enormity that being solely responsible for the growth of a tiny human brings with it. Me, and me alone was keeping this tiny bundle alive. I was the only person who can, not only nurture, but also instantly comfort my baby. This is a wonderful privilege but a role that is an emotional roller-coaster. The early wake ups, the cluster feeding late at night, the never being able to leave her for more than 2 hours at a time, all had me questioning why? Why did nobody tell me about the intense pressure, the loneliness in the middle of the night, the sheer exhaustion from essentially being a walking udder and the resentment felt towards your soundly sleeping other half. Alongside all this, you have the never ending advice, support and questions - get her on the bottle, it'll fill her up, when are you going to stop breastfeeding her? There were days when I felt so frustrated, angry and full of resentment by what everyone told me should have been the most natural thing in the world. I was so surprised by these feelings, like a wave they came crashing down on me. No one had even hinted that I might have felt like this, was I missing something?
But like all good roller coasters, after the deepest lows come the massive highs. The privilege and pure joy you get from being someone's complete world is indescribable. I realise this is the same for all mothers, formula or breastfeeding, but the bond is like no other. I have spent many nights just staring at my little ones face, treasuring those moments of just us two, knowing that all too soon my tiny baby will no longer need me in the same way.
My boobs also seem to have magical powers, if baby is irritable because of teething, stick her on the boob. If she's wailing because of her jabs, stick her on the boob. If she's just generally having one of those days, give her the boob. In many ways, motherhood without using my magical boobs completely terrifies me. How will I dry those tears? What happens if she's just having one of those days? Will I be enough without my boobs?
So you see, I have a real love - hate (slight frustration!) relationship with breastfeeding. Maybe I was naive. Or maybe someone should have told me that some days you'll probably spend all day grumbling about feeding baby again. But do you know what that is completely fine and normal. You are not a bad parent for wanting to be more than just your boobs.
Somewhere in the not too distant future I will be stepping off this emotional roller-coaster. Like all things baby related, this phase (although not always at the time) seems to have passed within the blink of an eye. There have been many hard days, days when I wanted to stop it all, days when I wanted to say 'nobody told me about feeling like this' but I will always hold onto the moments with my gorgeous sleepy baby nestled in my arms, happily feeding. Probably dreaming about her next feed!