Not everybody has agreed with my argument that midwives, health visitors, breastfeeding counsellors et al really need to acknowledge that when you’ve got a hungry baby and your boobs aren’t up to the job, you shouldn’t be made to feel like shit about it. I wrote an entire book about it and received a beautifully hostile Amazon review calling me “bitter” and “damaged” among other things.
The reviewer actually proved my point far more succinctly than I did myself. If only she had been on hand to help me write the book! We could have summed the whole thing up in a sentence shorter than a tweet and got on with our day.
Anyway, yesterday I received a Facebook message which has made that sort of crap – three years of guilt, trolls and insults – really pale into insignificance.
Two years ago a lady called Zoe shared her story here on the blog. She had never ever talked about her experience before. Even her partner didn’t know how bad she had felt.
You can read her whole story here but here is a heartbreaking extract:
“I expressed for an hour and produced nothing but a dribble. I broke. I gave up. I sat on my kitchen floor and told my sister I was a terrible mum and it would probably be better for everyone if I died. I had cracked and bleeding nipples, I was exhausted and had nothing to show for hours of feeding and expressing. I wasn’t revelling in motherhood, I was spiralling into post natal depression.
My family went out and bought baby milk and bottles. The guilt I felt was unimaginable. It weighed heavy on my shoulders. I had lasted three weeks of breastfeeding my baby and I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I had let her down. Every advert I saw about babies and feeding talked about giving your baby the best start in life with breast milk. Every newspaper article I read talked about how breastfed children did the best at school and had the best immune systems.”
Zoe was called “lazy” and accused of “taking the easy option” – before she’d even left the hospital with her newborn. It doesn’t exactly sound like the easy option, does it?
“It’s sad to say that the experience I had with breastfeeding and the way I felt about it after has made me decide not to have any more children,” she wrote to me in October 2012.
Here we are now, on the 18th January 2015 and I have just heard from Zoe again. And this time it’s AMAZING news!
“I just thought I would write to you to tell you my news – I’m pregnant!” she says.
“It’s something I never thought I would ever say again but since writing about my experience the first time around for your blog, well, everything changed.
“And for that I wanted to say a big thank you to you. If you hadn’t encouraged me to write about my struggle with first time motherhood, breast feeding and the like I know I would not be 11 weeks pregnant now.
“After writing the piece and having people read it, including my husband, the reaction from family and friends was lovely and supportive. I had a lot of ‘if I’d have known you felt that way I would have helped’.
“I also realised I wasn’t alone and most importantly hadn’t done anything wrong. I read all the stories from other mums on your blog and felt like I had become part of a powerful group, not someone who had to sit in the corner, in the ‘bad mum’ section!
A million times thank you, to you, your blog and all the women who contributed to making me feel ok about doing this again, I owe you a lot”.
So there we go ladies. We are officially a power group! But sorry – I am putting myself at the front of the queue for for a snuggle with Zoe’s new addition 🙂