One evening, soon after we’d made my second pregnancy public, we had some friends over for dinner. The wife of the couple, a close friend who had breastfed for the recommended year, asked if I was going to try and nurse, this time around. “I mean, why wouldn’t you at least try?” she asked, innocently.
This was a rather loaded question.
Twenty months earlier, when I’d entered the hospital to deliver my first baby, I had arrived armed with a new nursing bra, a weathered copy of The Nursing Mother’s Companion, and the full intention to embark on a mutually advantageous, successful breastfeeding journey with my son. And then I gave birth, and all hell broke loose. First came the soul-crushing postpartum depression. Then latching issues. A nerve problem in my left breast. A supply problem in my right. Seven different “lactation consultants.” A tongue tie. A frenulectomy. A switch to “exclusively pumping” rather than nursing. A formerly rock-solid marriage straining under expectations and disappointment. A milk/soy protein allergy. And a partridge in a pear tree.
Eventually, I threw in the nursing cover, packed away the pump, and began formula feeding. I was racked with guilt, but also infuriated at the lack of support for formula feeding parents, so I did what every other middle-class, overly-analytical mom in America does when they need an outlet: I blogged about it. I had stumbled on an unfulfilled niche, so the hits came fast and furious, and before I knew it I’d become the unofficial spokesperson for “breastfeeding failures” around the world. Obviously, when I got pregnant with my daughter, the questions inevitably began. Was I going to try breastfeeding again? Depending on the person asking and the day of the week, my answers would range from “of course!” to “hell to the no.” Both were honest. I truly didn’t know what I was going to do. I’d paid lip service to breastfeeding, claiming that I would have continued had I not faced all our problems. Now that I was facing the prospect of a clean slate, though, my view was murkier.