"It didn’t work out," I find myself saying to a friend when she asks if we’re still breastfeeding.
"It didn’t work out," I offer to colleagues, acquaintances, medical professionals, the random lady in the airport who may or may not have looked in my direction while bottle-feeding my three-month-old daughter.
Such a casual phrase. It suggests, "Hey, we gave it a go, it just wasn’t to be." My audience nods once, smiles and veers the conversation in another direction, completely unaware of the true magnitude of feelings attached to that simple little phrase.
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I’ve done it myself on so many previous occasions, utterly unprepared to support new mums with the immense challenges of breastfeeding without ever having experienced them myself. “Oh fair enough, fed is best” I’d quip, sure it was the right thing to say and entirely immune to just how inadequate this can make new mothers feel.
“It didn’t work out” meant 12 weeks of agonising over every feed, every three hours, twenty-four hours a day.
It meant cracked, tortured and literally bleeding nipples for weeks on end as my baby sucked and sucked to no avail.
It meant hours and hours of constant feeding, as my daughter cried for more and both friends and professionals assured me “cluster feeding” was normal.
“It didn’t work out” belies the incredible amount of tears shed. The incessant googling of all things supply related, only to be told it was simply a matter of pumping more.
The pumping, oh the pumping. It meant setting my alarm for every three hours around the clock, whether my baby was awake or not.
“It didn’t work out” meant packets and packets of medication, it meant interrogations from the pharmacist - “you can’t take a dose this high” - it meant eating so many lactation biscuits my pants got tight.
It meant trying to contain my jealousy as new mum friends moaned about oversupply; it meant purchasing every breastfeeding-related contraption under the sun and it meant an incredible amount of self pity as I struggled to perform the vital task of a new mother, unclear how I could be failing at something I was pouring such a huge amount of energy into.