Releasing From The Guilt Of Not Being Able To Breastfeed: Monique’s Story

2 Posted by - June 8, 2015 - Bottle-Feeding, Breast Feeding
A Beautiful Body Project

Photo by Jade Beall

On January 22nd, after a very quick delivery my second son, Grant Arthur Alvarez was born. He was absolutely perfect and those first moments with him were full of gratitude and love. As you know, after you deliver your baby, you deliver the placenta, except I didn’t. For forty five minutes my midwife massaged my belly and we prayed for it to release. The tension in the room was growing and then in one moment it turned to panic and action. The head nurse made the decision to get me into surgery immediately. I was losing blood terribly. I was in and out. My room was full. Pills were being put in my mouth, IVs in, signing papers, and the last thing I remember was the anesthesiologist making me laugh. My placenta was surgically removed in order to save my life. Tests were done and my blood counts were not good. One doctor told me he had never seen anyone alive at that level. Four blood transfusions were hung and life was put back in me. My surgeon visited me and let me know that my milk would probably not come in and that I would need to give Grant formula. Inside I was crushed. I felt like a failure. The lengths I went to in my pregnancy to give the absolute best to my baby and now he gets formula! I had already been through this with my first son. I had the same experience only the Doctor was able to remove my placenta without surgery the first time. I had two blood transfusions that time. I got a little milk but it dried up very quickly.

I heard many well meaning people tell me to eat more, drink this tea, take that tincture. It wasn’t working. And with Grant there was no milk to increase, there was no milk. When we would go out I would get asked why I wasn’t nursing since it was so good for mom and baby. In photos I would try to move the bottle out of the shot. People were especially curious because it’s a well known fact that I’m an organic, health nut kind of girl. I was raised in my mom’s health food store and it just made no sense why I wasn’t nursing. Why didn’t I explain it to people? Because it’s exhausting. I was anemic as can be with a 12 month old and a newborn, I wasn’t up for it. When people assumed I was nursing, I went with it. When they thought I had pumped and was giving him breast milk in the bottle, I didn’t argue. When people asked, I just changed the subject. I felt guilty enough as it was, I didn’t need to hear, Breast is Best! I think in our society we believe if we try hard enough we can do anything. Becoming a mother has shown me this isn’t always the case. Sometimes things go sideways. Sometimes you don’t have control over it all. I wanted to people to understand I was doing my best. I couldn’t try harder and suddenly be able to nurse.

My guilt only increase when my Grant was hospitalized on April 12. We took him for diarrhea thinking we just wanted to be on the safe side and prevent dehydration. The first round of tests came back and Grant went right into the Intensive Care Unit. His kidneys were failing and he was fighting for his life. After nine days in the hospital it was determined that he was allergic to the formula I had been giving him. Watching your baby be sick and suffer is horrible. Not knowing if he is going to make it broke my heart in a million pieces, but knowing it was brought on by something I did, well it killed me. 
A Beautiful Body Project

Photo by Jade Beall

Thankfully he’s thriving now. Healthy, chubby, smiling and perfect. A few weeks ago I saw an open call on Facebook to be part of a photo shoot for moms and newborns with Jade and I thought it was a sweet opportunity to make a memory with my son. I never thought any more of it than that. The shoot was fun and I met lots of beautiful moms and babies. I saw the bumps of expecting moms and was taken right back to the joy of pregnancy and the expectation of the most amazing miracle ever. We all sat around as Jade wrapped it up and thanked us for coming out. I was sitting in the corner feeding Grant and the mom next to me was nursing. Suddenly Jade interrupts herself and points at us. I wanted to hide. I felt that guilt come over me. In one split second I thought, she nursed and she’s wondering why I’m not. I did. That’s the truth. I remember feeling shame, from everything that had happened since he was born come over me. And then in the most sweet, loving voice she said, breast and bottle and smiled. She called us up to take a couple shots feeding our babies. I can’t tell you why other than Jade and her studio are full of unconditional love, as I stood up and walked toward that white backdrop I was free. I was free of the guilt. I dumped it, literally dumped it on the ground and by time I stood on my spot and faced the camera I was taller than I have ever been. I was confident. I was sure of the woman and mother I am. We had been through it but it was ok now. Grant had everything he needed and I could let it all go. That photo says it all. I’m pure. I’m light. I am mother.

Thank you Jade, really. I never expected such a spiritual experience, but it was divine and miraculous.

17 Comments

  • Carol Lavin June 8, 2015 - 11:53 pm Reply

    i so appreciate this story….I wasn’t able to fully breast feed either of my children. I am one of the small percentage of women that can’t produce enough milk. My breaatfeeding consultant told was able to deduce that I was a 50% producer and needed to bring a bottle with me, after breastfeeding first. It broke my heart both times, and people automatically made certain assumptions that were so wrong. AND, what I learned is, every parenting decision is such a personal one…whether it is breast, bottle, co sleeping, etc etc. The list is so long, of things that people tend to make judgements about when we are busy just trying to do the best we can as parents. Again thank you for this post.

    • Monique Alvarez June 12, 2015 - 2:33 am Reply

      You are welcome Carol! It’s so true. I remember the day my mom told me, all that matters is that you find what works for you and your baby. No one is going to fully understand your journey and decisions but you have to make peace about finding your own way.

  • Allie June 11, 2015 - 1:56 am Reply

    Thank you – I tried and tried to nurse and did not have enough milk. The guilt so horrible I developed severe post-partum depression. My son is a healthy 10 yr old and a only child. Not everyone can nurse for various reasons. God Bless you and your family.

    • Monique Alvarez June 12, 2015 - 2:36 am Reply

      Allie I can relate. With my first son I kept him with me day and night trying to stimulate more milk production. By the time he was three months old, I still wasn’t making much milk and he wasn’t gaining weight. He was only four pounds at birth so this wasn’t a good thing. I was so sleep deprived I was literally crazy and I had lost 30 pounds. I still remember the night my mom said, it’s ok Monique let’s try something else.

  • Cecile June 11, 2015 - 1:55 pm Reply

    Funnily enough, in my husband’s family, breastfeeding is actually not well perceived – I thus had to “fight” for 6 months (and even before that, before my daughter was born) to make them accept the fact I wanted to breastfeed. It has been the same fight as you have – but for the opposite reason. Funny how people always have to judge us for our choices. You look wonderful on the pictures, you look fierce and peaceful. I believe we should be able to make our own choices for us, and for our children – even more so when it’s not a choice but an obligation, like it was for you.

    • Monique Alvarez June 12, 2015 - 2:42 am Reply

      Cecile, I had to smile when I read your comment because I think as mothers we have to accept that fact that we can’t please everyone. What I learned through these experiences is that when I am in a good place my boys know it and they are happy.

  • Emi June 11, 2015 - 5:21 pm Reply

    As someone who has experienced the same kind of guilt I thank you for sharing your story. Not everyone can breastfeed – what is most important is that you do your best to feed your babe. How you do it doesn’t matter!

    • Monique Alvarez June 12, 2015 - 4:08 am Reply

      Emi, I agree. I make my boys food with love and that’s what’s most important.

  • Buckley June 11, 2015 - 9:48 pm Reply

    Wow! Reading the testimony of what happened during labor and birth reminded me that we(all moms) have hurdles in one form or another! Thank you for sharing and allowing everyone to know your hurdles! Sharing binds us together as moms I think. When we know each other’s stories it seems to help bulldoze those walls we put up that allows others to judge us and vice versa. I had a stubborn placenta as well : / but the midwife was able to remove it. Then came the hurdle of having a lip/tongue tied baby. Whew praise The Lord we lived through that! It was a rough start for us in some ways as well.
    Again thanks for sharing! Was curious what the situation of your placenta’s were? Was it a certain genetic thing or just a fluke unknown? Mine is unknown (I think it was a velamentous placenta possibly..)any info you might be willing to share would be great please feel free to email me.

    • Monique Alvarez June 12, 2015 - 4:14 am Reply

      Yes in our stories we find we have so much in common. Both times I was told that it was just unknown flukes. No one in my family ever had this issue. It was new to us all. I learned that pregnancy, labor and birth can bring so many possible scenarios.

  • Sabrina Giesler June 13, 2015 - 12:33 am Reply

    Beautiful story, beautiful babies, beautiful ladies!

  • Lisa June 15, 2015 - 5:42 pm Reply

    Thanks Monique, you do look incredibly proud and confident in your photograph. I’ve always said birth and motherhood humbles us all. You never, ever know what the gods have in store for you.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    Lisa

  • Sue June 15, 2015 - 7:38 pm Reply

    Thank you for sharing your story, Monique. I too was unable to breastfeed after a complex delivery and a myriad of health problems I incurred postpartum. I look at my son’s delivery and first weeks postpartum as “baptism by fire” to motherhood. 🙂 I could TOTALLY relate to you when I read “Sometimes things go sideways. Sometimes you don’t have control over it all.” I was reluctant to accepting that at first. Being somewhat of a control freak I couldn’t fathom that the labor and delivery had not gone as I expected, as I wanted, and felt such guilt for not doing it the way we had planned Then that I wouldn’t be able to continue breastfeeding? Ugh. But soon I learned all those hurdles were a blessing. They made me let go of trying to control life – mine and my baby’s. And it was actually freeing. If freed me up to let life unfold instead of trying to make life happen. All my worries about what might happen if I didn’t breastfeed fell away. My son was healthy, I was his mother, and all was right with the world. 🙂 Thank you again for sharing your story! I can’t help but smile back at your smile in those pictures!

  • Dr Linda Shanti (RecoveryMama) June 15, 2015 - 11:16 pm Reply

    Beautiful. So glad you are telling your story Mama. We all deserve to be FREE from shame and GOOD ENOUGH MOMS whatever our birth and feeding experiences!

  • Abby Burd June 17, 2015 - 4:08 am Reply

    What a beautiful story. I got such goosebumps hearing of your release from guilt. If only we all could let mom guilt go. Love this website and love this story.

  • Chaz DeSimone June 17, 2015 - 6:03 pm Reply

    A couple weeks ago I was the proud “godfather” of 4 baby finches, hatched in a nest that the parents built in my bathroom window sill. A couple days later my cat tore through the screen and I witnessed the chicks die one by one, with the last one struggling to hold onto life. (I did all I could for him, then brought him to a wildlife rescue where they said he’ll be fine.) I was horrified, terrified, sad, and guilty. I know exactly how you felt, but no, not exactly: these were just in my home, but your son was inside you.

    I am glad he is thriving now, and that Jade’s clever and compassionate perception of the situation and ambience of her studio induced you to release your guilt and shame, and realize the magnificence of you and your son.

  • Sally hill July 5, 2015 - 11:33 pm Reply

    My baby struggled to nurse from my boob and i too was devestated, we tried everything with no success. As i was sobbing with dissapointmwnt and failure my very wise midwife said to me “it takes a lot more to be a good mother then just being able to breastfeed”. I got over it, accepted it and got on witn being the best mother i could.

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