Not trying hard enough

Not trying hard enough is a phrase that has haunted me most of my life. For a long time it’s been applied vaguely at me in regards to weight loss. Despite my counting calories, and measuring or weighing most everything I eat and seeing no results. I bought into the idea that I must be doing something wrong and that I wasn’t trying hard enough. Now that I’ve finally (finally!) been diagnosed with PCOS I can give myself a little bit less of a hard time.

When breastfeeding went wrong and people actually said to me that I needed to work harder and that I wasn’t trying hard enough (also see: lazy, uneducated, and so on) I again bought into the idea that I wasn’t trying hard enough and it ate me up inside. I mean so many people were saying (mostly without knowing the specifics) that there must be something I was doing wrong.

Thing is, in a normal situation these things are not rocket science. They are simply not that hard. When you aren’t in a normal situation though, all bets are off. There are lots of variations on not normal, so be cool and give support.

This time around has been a really different experience for a lot of reasons. If I had more time I could write guides about horrible sleepy fussy babies with oral particular-ness and how much more this low supply gig sucks when you also have a toddler.  Most importantly though I know this time I am totally awesome and actually pretty damn hardcore for being able to do this.

I ran into some internet comments the other day espousing the same old tired bullshit that low supply is ultra rare and that people who say they have it are all a big bunch of lazy liars and blah blah blah. It made me a bit weepy because I’d forgotten how many of that type of ‘lactivist’ there still are. Here I’d been thinking that recent media exposure on the prevalence of breastfeeding issues had somewhat changed the landscape in the past two years. Ha, I say. Ha.

Someone else in the same stream of comments said something along the lines of ‘Well 99% of pancreases work so diabetes is ultra rare and you only think you have it’. Someone else countered with ‘Don’t eat 50 donuts a day and expect your pancreas to work’. I then thought, if anyone told a type 1 diabetic that eating donuts caused their disease they would just be convinced that person was a moron. Put it all in perspective for me. Anyone who ever thinks I didn’t or I’m not trying hard enough I can automatically dismiss as a moron.

Phew.

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What might have been

I’ve had some passing retrospective…introspective? Something ‘spective at any rate, moments of late of what might have been. Wondering what kind of person I would have been if we’d not had these issues. It kind of makes me afraid. I wonder if I would have been as inflexible and uncompromising as I see some people be on the subject of breastfeeding issues. Part of me doesn’t think so though since I am prone to compassion. I certainly wouldn’t have the ability to empathize quite as strongly as I do now. I think it takes staring choices you never thought you’d have to make in the face to really get some things. I do know that our problems have made me a better, and certainly more complex, person though. I’m certainly more thoughtful about how other peoples struggles are not my own.  I read somewhere recently that exceptional people consider others just as able as they are if not more so. That people who have succeeded consider others more able than they are. And that really hit home for me. Because I have often wondered, why me? Both as to why this happened and to how and why I got through it.

I never really considered myself that out of the ordinary in terms of our struggles. I mean, unusual to be having them, I suppose, but once I got into dealing with things I certainly didn’t feel extraordinary in any way-except that I was alone with my struggles. People in similar situations to me either met their original goal or went a different way. There was no one else who was defining alternate goals on the fly and making those work.  I guess that I consider myself mostly lucky despite not having any help. Lucky that I stumbled on the fact that the SNS existed (and found somewhere to buy one), lucky that my baby latched on,  lucky that my baby tolerated the SNS, lucky that being told over and over again that I couldn’t do this made me mad instead of stop.

I certainly understand communities of women who have faced breastfeeding difficulties (the Fearless Formula Feeder community springs to mind) being fiercely defiant over their eventual choice and outcome. Finding solidarity over what ended up being best for them and being proud that they are better people for their struggles. I feel the same way although my choice was different, and thus more isolating, than most. Most every community I’ve found is either banded together over something I only share peripherally (which has made me an object of suspicion), or a collection of people bound together over their isolation. Which doesn’t exactly make for much of a community…

I’ve talked to a lot of people experiencing issues with breastfeeding. I’ve referred those who asked to what I did that worked, to the support I’ve found along the way and of those one has taken my advice on support networks (MOBI), and none have found my experience or advice particularly helpful. I suppose it was faulty of me to assume that just because I would have loved some support from someone like me that anyone else would be grateful for advice from someone who’d been there, done that and made it work for them. Which leaves me wondering, why me? Previous to these experiences I would not have thought this would have been something I was capable of.

A big part of becoming happy with how things are (other than time, which heals most wounds) is extracting myself from negative influences. Without people telling me that even though I was doing something tricky with little to no guidance that I was ‘actually’ failing by their definition, or alternately that I should stop doing something that was working for me in order to make my life easier caused me no end of heartache. Because I kept searching for somewhere to ‘fit’ I endured more pain than I needed.  And of course the eventual realization that I did do the right thing. Finally being able to look back and feel a tiny glimmer of pride at what I did do, whether or not it worked, or if it was what I’d planned. I did that. I helped grow that little person not through our struggles or what I fed her but through love and parenting. So no matter what I’m glad I’m not what I might have been because me, now, is better. My little toddler certainly has her priorities straight. What her baby-doll needs most are apparently kisses and hugs.

So this kind of means I don’t want to go looking for things to write about because there are some scary uncompromising people out there.

So with that I’m winding this thing down to the extent there won’t be bi-weekly, or maybe even weekly posts. Certainly for now, but who knows about later? How I’ve been operating lately is write a bunch when I have time and auto-schedule the lot. But I don’t have anything much scheduled. I have a few posts readied for various circumstances and occasions (watch this space for a tutorial on making milk jewelry), but nothing regular. I might even start publishing my previously mentioned journal on a semi-regular basis. And if I see or think of something I may, or may not, feel motivated to write something up, but not going to be making the effort to be weekly, or potentially even monthly.

Or I could add a parenting subsection and go on about that…

My least favorite phrases

If you spend any time in the breastfeeding trenches of the internet you’ll come across a few phrases used again and again.

Own your decision:

I hate that saying by amateur lactivists. As if the point where you, determined to breastfeed, desperately start using formula feels anything like a choice, let alone one you supposedly need to ‘own up to’ (like you are guilty) and take responsibility for. I’ve found most people who feel a sense of relief at stopping breastfeeding are not shy about sharing, but ‘own your decision’ is most often said to those who are, for some bizarre reason, seen to be making excuses. Those who chose to feed their babies and not suffer. I don’t know how ‘my baby was losing too much weight’, ‘latching was agonizing (and there was no help)’, or ‘I couldn’t get out enough with a pump’, and so on are excuses. Explanations, yes. Excuses no. That would imply that something wrong was being done, as opposed to explaining why this situation you’ve found yourself in isn’t going the way you’d like.

Nearly all (or some numerical variation thereof) women can breastfeed:

I hate this one so much I devoted an entire post to it. It’s a phrase designed to imbue confidence and empower women, which is fine, but it ends up used as a shaming device, which is not fine. It’s vague and imprecise and unhelpful. Unhelpful because people are told that ‘statistic’ and thus never become aware of the signs and symptoms of what ‘unable to breast feed’ looks like.

Happy mummy=happy baby:

What if you aren’t happy with needing to not breastfeed? This assumes that breastfeeding is most often some awful thing to be tolerated. Like there’s never going to be some situation where you love it and need to not do it. It’s almost the flip side of every baby deserves breast milk (self flagellation ahoy!)

Breast milk is right for every baby/every baby deserves breast milk.

Just no. First off there are babies intolerant to proteins in mother’s milk. And it’s never worth it to compromise the mother’s health or sanity completely. A little bit, ok, because any baby can be demanding and deprive you of sleep, but when it’s a question of continuing to live or being able to care properly for your baby, then no, it’s not worth it. I also strongly dislike this one as it implies that all the mother is for is for the baby. Mothers are people too. Since when did lactivism supersede feminism?

Formula should be prescription only

Ok. You think that is going to improve breastfeeding care? No. It’s going to punish women for needing to formula feed. I wish everyone wanted to breastfeed and was able to. I do, but I don’t want to punish anyone for not doing it.

You did so well to get so far, most women would have given up.

This drives me up the wall for so many reasons. Foremost is that I could easily have been one of those ‘other women’. I don’t want to make those who did not meet their goals feel any worse if I can help it. How do those women that did ‘give up’ (more like give in) feel when someone says that near them or even to them? It must be like a million tiny slaps in the face. I wince when I encounter it. It’s a guilt inducing  phrase and a backhanded compliment all in one. Backhanded because I most often see it applied to women who have been struggling for months and are stopping because things are not working and it’s impacting their life and mental well being too much. Hey, maybe it’s what they need to hear and they are relieved at stopping, but then again, maybe they are not happy with stopping but don’t see any way to make it work.  This phrase also assumes that the end goal of breastfeeding is how long can you go, not getting babies fed and not being miserable about it.

I’m strong on breastfeeding because I care about babies.

Those who say this apparently want to promote the emotional wreckage of mothers in favor of helping babies. I’m sure most mothers care more about their babies than you do. You’ve just made her feel like she doesn’t because of breastfeeding. Good job! [sarcasm] Besides, the tactics that often go along with this one (I’m only this way about breastfeeding because I care about babies) are another one of those tactics aimed at the whole of breastfeeding failure or success being on the mother’s shoulders. Nothing about outside support, having issues recognized or corrected or anything else. Those who spout variations of this are pretty much like walking breast is best posters. All why you should and no support or recognition of issues.