I always knew I was going to breastfeed if I had kids. My mom had nursed me past the age of one, so I knew that was something I was going to strive for. And when my son latched within five minutes of being born, I knew that we were on track for a positive experience. Every day it got a little bit easier, and I was feeling totally pumped.
Since breastfeeding was so important to me, I found several breastfeeding support groups on Facebook. It was nice to get information and talk about the struggles of breastfeeding. I actually was doing pretty well, and it felt like the one part of being a mom I was totally smashing. Naturally, I was really excited about that.
My best friend, on the other hand, was struggling. She was having a host of problems breastfeeding and I felt terrible that it wasn’t coming as easily to her as it had to me.
When I get really excited about something, I tend to talk about it a lot. And breastfeeding was no different. I was learning so much that I wanted to share it with her. I thought maybe it could help and then we’d have this other part of our motherhood journey to share.
Boy, was I wrong.
She definitely did not appreciate my conversations. Pretty soon I realized that we were firmly in two very different camps: I was very pro-breastfeeding, and she was not. While she wasn’t anti-breastfeeding, she had issues with people who were too strongly pro-breastfeeding. Ultimately, this difference became a huge roadblock in our friendship.
I didn’t realize how badly it was going to cause a rift between us. It was never something that we would have explosive fights about, but it was always bubbling just below the surface. As first-time mothers, I thought we would be able to share information freely between each other and have conversations about it like adults. If I’d mention something one of the breastfeeding advocates I followed may have said, she always had a snarky retort. Even though I tried to remain open to the things that she was saying and empathetic about her breastfeeding struggles, it was hard to talk about it at all because I always felt shut down.
So I stopped bringing up breastfeeding with my friend. But that didn’t diminish its importance to me. I knew other women I was friends with were breastfeeding, or they were pregnant and considering it. Therefore, if I came across interesting information about breastfeeding, I felt that it was important to share on my personal social media pages. Every time I did, without fail, my friend would comment something negative. Everything was always presented as a challenge to me. “I dare you to argue with me” was the vibe I got from her comments. But I never wanted to argue. I wasn’t posting these articles to start a fight, I was sharing information I found interesting or useful, which is kind of the point, isn’t it?
My intentions were never to shame anyone for choosing not to follow the same path I was following; if you know me, you usually know where I stand on any subject. I may not agree with everything people I’m friends with share, but I never feel that I need to disagree with them publicly.
After her combative comments, I decided that I wouldn’t share anything related to breastfeeding on social media anymore. But that meant that I was cutting out a huge part of my parenting identity. Breastfeeding was so very important to me, and not being able to talk about it upset me. I didn’t want to alienate one of my closest friends, but it also wasn’t fair that I was made to feel bad for being pro-breastfeeding.
I wanted to share our breastfeeding milestones, for me it was something to be immensely proud of. Every time I thought about it, I hesitated. What if she thought that I was bragging? I didn’t want to make her feel like I believed I was a better mom than she was simply because I was breastfeeding.
My best friend loomed over my breastfeeding triumphs like an ominous cloud, ready to pour down at any mention of breastfeeding. Whenever something pro-breastfeeding crossed my feed, I’d longingly stare at that “share” button, my cursor hovering over it. Many times, I’d simply read the article and that was it. Sometimes, however, I would click “share” and then hide behind my fingers, waiting for the fallout. And it always came without fail.
On one article, she got into such a heated argument with one of my friends who was pro-breastfeeding that I just got frustrated and deleted the whole post. It just seemed easier to do that than to try to get in the middle of an argument that I wasn’t even involved in, especially when I knew which side of the argument I would take.
I always knew that her negativity came from her own insecurities, and I never wanted to be the one to shine light on them, but constantly having to walk on eggshells to spare her feelings eventually made me resentful.
At this point, my son has been weaned for quite some time. I’m proud of every minute of our nursing journey. But I will always wish that I could have been more public about my pride in myself. I wish I could have been more open about my advocacy. Even now, I still can’t share anything that is pro-breastfeeding without her chiming in with her usual negativity.
Once, she shared with me that she feared I was becoming a “lactivist,” and maybe I was. If she felt strongly about something, I would have supported her, even if I didn’t believe or agree as strongly. But I will never forget how unsupportive she was of this one thing that was so important to me. It hurt too much.