by Luz Helena Hincapie, 35 years, BA Architect, Colombia, South America
During the process of rediscovering and learning to love myself and understand more about me through my breasts, something which I didn’t plan at a very conscious level occurred and it beautifully, but challengingly disrupted the process altogether…
I fell pregnant.
However, after some struggle, I chose to accept it. Ideally, it would’ve been great if the relationship with myself was steadier and more consistent before embracing such a life-changing and full-on situation, but it wasn´t that way. I am now in a situation of juggling between taking care of myself and taking care of my 10 month old son, who is completely dependent on me.
When I was pregnant I went through an intense period where I processed lots of stuff, especially the first 14 or 16 weeks. It ranged from intense emotional dramas and troubled digestion, to deep exhaustion. It was a time where I really needed to STOP and make decisions from my body. After the first trimester, when my body was more settled, all sorts of discomforts happened, however they were all manageable. It was a matter of taking deep care, consistently looking after the rhythms of how I lived my day, my diet, and ensuring moments of rest. In spite of dealing with mild anaemia, low blood pressure and high levels of sugar in my blood, I went through moments of feeling complete within me. I felt generally clear in my thoughts, needy-less, still, and at ease. It was a beautiful experience in spite of the physical changes that made me face the consequences of my past choices, such us living in disregard and abuse, and holding back my true feelings, expression and my light.
So what part did my breasts have in all this process? Apart from growing tremendously and feeling very tender at the beginning, I almost forgot about them again! But sooner or later they made sure I had to take them back into deep consideration. What I didn’t expect was that breastfeeding was unmercifully waiting for me after the birth of my child. I erroneously thought that because I felt so at ease during pregnancy and because I accepted and dealt with all the stuff that came out in my body, I was somehow finished with the most difficult part. Well… not exactly.
After the birth of my son my breasts robbed the show!
I enthusiastically started breastfeeding. It was painful but I was not extremely worried about it. However at the third/fourth day everything changed. My breasts were so hard, swollen and painful that I felt as if I was injecting concrete into them. Two big masses grew up under my armpits; my nipples were sore and bleeding. I went through so much pain and frustration. I was advised by my medical support to massage my breasts in circles under hot water, trying to push the milk down. It only made it worse and it wasn’t the way other women generally experienced breastfeeding. At some point I thought I would need to have a surgery and that I would have to give up breastfeeding.
Fortunately, someone put me in touch with a very experienced nurse, after trying with many other people… she was a real blessing to find. She was very clear about what was going on:
- I had double mammary glands under my armpits – making the whole process more problematic and painful
- I also had excessive production of milk
- I had polycystic disease in the right breast – so all massages plus hot water only make things worse and
- I had almost all of my ducts blocked with milk.
After 5 sessions with the nurse, I managed to overcome the crisis, and after that I was only struggling to latch the baby on properly, and dealing with the excessive production of milk and the intensity with which it came out from my breasts. After a couple of weeks I felt like a human cow, sitting all day extracting my milk and feeding the baby. I felt both breastfeeding on demand, or even just between 3 to 4 hours, was quite intense and stressful.
I had mixed feelings about it all
- I wanted the best thing for my son at any cost
- I really needed to take advantage of all that milk
- I felt there was a beautiful connection through breastfeeding
- I felt an obligation, a burden, and a need to sacrifice
I just carried on. After two months I finally managed to master the process, my body settled and the production of milk was more manageable, my nipples didn’t hurt anymore and I was an expert helping my baby to burp.
Nonetheless, something inside didn’t feel totally right. Some days I enjoyed it a lot and felt proud to do it, others I was exhausted, resentful and did it out of obligation. I didn’t really allow myself to feel all of those ‘negative’ feelings, regardless of the feeling of guilt that was building up inside. The encouragement of others made me feel on the right path. I used to ask other mothers for how long had they breastfed; some said 3 months, others 9, others 2 years. I had a sense that behind each answer there was a feeling of satisfaction, feeling proud… or on the contrary a humble shame. Sometimes when I was with other breastfeeding mums I would feel successful that I was also breastfeeding like them, but…
What was I REALLY feeling about Breastfeeding?
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