Two expected and typical staples of becoming a mother, whether for the first time or tenth time, is delivering your baby naturally and breastfeeding. It’s what many moms talk about. It’s what doctors and nurses talk about. It’s what we see funny mom memes about, joking about the “damage” done from both delivery and feedings. And often, it’s assumed that’s what you have done. While some are able to experience both and others experience one or the other, there are some that experience neither.
I fall into the “neither” category. All four of my children were born via C-section, and all four of my children were exclusively formula fed.
Whenever it comes up – the delivery of my first, the twins, or my fourth – I feel the need to defend myself and explain why it is that all my children were born via C-section and why I am only formula feeding them. While I know that it’s not technically anyone’s business, I often find myself oversharing just so people won’t judge me for not doing it the way you’re “supposed” to do it. I find myself not wanting people (even strangers) to know that I’ve only had C-sections (never actually trying to deliver naturally) and that I’ve had to exclusively formula feed all four of my children.
It’s not that I’m embarrassed for having three C-sections (I hated having C-sections and struggled during all of them, so for me they’ve been physical and emotional challenges) or that I’m ashamed for formula feeding (it’s providing my kids with the food and nutrients they need during their first year of life, and that’s what matters most), but rather I feel that I’ve missed out on something special about being a mother.
The experience of going into labor, of being in the delivery room (or wherever you may choose to deliver your baby), and finally, after hours of labor, delivering your baby. I know this is the ideal situation for a delivery, but it’s also what you expect to experience when you’re pregnant. And then there is the experience of breastfeeding your child – that bond that is created because you are able to provide them with the sustenance and nutrients that they need. A bond nobody but a mother can know. It’s these things that I feel I’ve missed out on and, therefore, feel the need to defend myself when it’s revealed I’ve done neither – I never even tried.
Am I judged for never having tried? Am I less of a mother for never having tried? Am I less connected to my children because they’re not breastfed? Will there be a difference in my children’s development as they grow? These are all questions that have gone through my mind over the past six years. These are questions that have, at times, kept me up at night.
But I’ve also learned that these are questions that do not matter whatsoever. It does not change the kind of mother I strive to be or how much I love my children. It does not alter their development or change how much of a turd they’ll be when they’re overtired. It will not impact their health negatively and whether they prefer broccoli over chocolate (as if that would even ever happen!). And it does not make me any less of a person.
The reasons why someone may or may not choose to have a C-section or decide to formula feed their baby are complex or straightforward; they’re necessary or unnecessary; they’re that person’s choice or it’s a recommendation. And at the end of the day, that’s really all there is to it.
For me, the reason we formula fed all of our kids is simple – I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 27 and had a double mastectomy when I was 28 so breastfeeding has always been completely off the table for me. The reason our children were all born via C-sections is relatively straightforward. The first C-section was because my daughter went into distress after I received too much oxytocin for induction. My second C-section was because our twins were breached and transverse (and stuck in my ribs). And, the third C-section, while I did try to convince my doctors to let me try for a VBAC 2 (vaginal birth after two Caesareans), in the end it was decided that another C-section was the safest option for me and the baby. As well, since I’m at a high risk for ovarian cancer (this links back to the whole breast cancer at 27 thing), the doctors wanted to take a look around to make sure all was well.
While, for me, the decision to formula feed and have three C-sections were, for the most part, determined by circumstances beyond my control, my experience will vary greatly from someone else’s experience. What needs to be remembered is that however you feed your baby, however you bring your child into this world, it’s all amazing and incredible and requires strength and love and knowing that what is being done is best for you and your baby and family. And while there are days I feel sad and slighted for not having the opportunity to experience a natural delivery or breastfeeding, I remind myself that my babies are all healthy, they are all strong, and they are all picky eaters like the majority of kids out there.
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