Since having twins last year, I have been committed to breastfeeding them. I never judge others for their choice or their decision to formula feed. It is, however, my personal choice, and I’m wicked stubborn.
Since June, I cannot tell you how many times I have been pushed to try formula. I have been criticized for my choice and encouraged by many family, friends, and health care providers to switch. I have been called selfish, I have been criticized, and I have left conversations doubting my ability to provide adequate calories. Add that to clogged ducts, lip ties, tongue ties, and overall terrible latches, and it’s been pretty shitty. I love nursing, and I love that the boys have had only breast milk and nutritious foods, but the actual process has been hard.
And then I accepted my first bags of donor milk. I had bronchitis, and I was in the ER. My cousin over-nighted it (yes, that’s a thing) — 17 ounces. It got me through a day of dehydration, fever, and overall feeling lousy. She has twins too, so she didn’t hesitate. She just called FedEx.
Then a high school friend walked up to me at a community event and offered it. I wanted to say no because I don’t need anyone’s help (okay, lie). But I said yes. Tears flooded my eyes, and I couldn’t form any more words. This amazing human being delivered it to my house in 3-to-4-ounce bags and helped me get through a huge growth spurt. I don’t know how I would have survived that week without that milk.
Then my best friend had her baby. She would drop off bags every once in a while, sometimes with a coffee (I have amazing friends). Her baby was 6 weeks old when this started. Now if I need a few ounces, she comes over and pumps to put it in the fridge. That is love. That is support.
Then a random person on Facebook reached out to me. She had found me through Human Milk 4 Human Babies, and she wanted to help. I picked up a huge bag of pumped, creamy, fatty, amazing milk for the boys. I cried as I accepted it. I cried because this amazing gift nourishes my boys, and therefore nourishes me.
I know that not everyone can donate, and not everyone feels comfortable sharing milk or accepting shared milk. For me, it’s like holding my hand. This is fucking hard. Motherhood is hard. Nursing is hard. So, to you, women in my life who have given me this gift…
Thank you — because I don’t think you really knew.
You didn’t know that I have often felt like I’m “not enough,” that there is not enough of me to go around. Between two babies, my beautiful daughter, and my amazing husband, I’m spread thin.
You didn’t know that I have been accused of being “not enough” by others, judged for not using formula and taking this route instead, for not feeding cereal, or for not choosing the same route that others have chosen for their children.
You didn’t know that the day my twins were born, a nurse told me that I shouldn’t be upset if they need formula, and I wasn’t even off the surgical table.
You didn’t know that there are people who have broadly challenged my parenting choices and brought me to question myself.
You didn’t know that I celebrate when my sons maintain their weight curve above the 5th percentile
You didn’t know that I have cried over this — a lot. I have sat with my crying babies, rocking them, nursing them, drinking quarts of water at a time, feeling like I’m failing.
You didn’t know that I let out a huge sigh of relief when I opened my freezer and had those Medela, Lansinoh, and NUK bags waiting for us.
You didn’t know. Now you do.