Deleted Scene: The Pressure to Breastfeed

I am getting closer and closer to publishing my memoir about postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, and postpartum OCD. Breastfeeding plays an important part in my book because breastfeeding aggravated — maybe even caused — my symptoms. But I can’t include all the scenes I have written about breastfeeding, so here is one that is not making the cut.

About twenty minutes after she was born, my doctor finally let me take my feet out of the stirrups.

“Can I have her?”

“Of course,” Nathan said.  “She wants her mama,” and he placed her back on my chest.

Now was the moment of truth.  Throughout my pregnancy, I had been brainwashed into thinking that everything — everything — depended on breastfeeding.  If I breastfed, my daughter would glow with health and intelligence.  If not, she would be fat and sickly, and her IQ would probably drop ten or fifteen points.

So many people advocated the rewards of breastfeeding: my friends; the pregnancy books; the baby books; the literature at my obstetrician’s office; the pediatrician; bloggers; magazines articles; social media; the doula who taught my prenatal yoga class; the nurse who taught my labor and delivery class; the websites that sent weekly updates about the baby in my womb. 

They all repeated the same mantras: breast is best; breastmilk is liquid gold; you pass on so many immunities through breast milk; formula fed babies are obese; and breast milk increases IQ.

Out of an abundance of caution, I bought a container of formula.  It proclaimed, right on the container: Breast is Best.  Even the formula company thought I should breastfeed.

As Pippa nuzzled my chest, she started to root around and strain towards my breast.  I worried.  Would she latch?  Would she breastfeed?  Would I do this right? 

Pippa squirmed towards my left breast.  I had done so much to prepare for this moment.  I had read three different books about breastfeeding; attended the hospital’s breastfeeding class; and studied the class handouts as if they held the secret to immortality.  Less than a week before my water broke, I visited the hospital’s breastfeeding support group and watched the mothers breastfeed their newborns. I had prepared for breastfeeding as if it was the final examination that would determine my success as a mother.  Would I pass?

I steered Pippa towards my breast.  The moms at the breastfeeding support group had made this look so easy, but I felt awkward and unnatural.  What was wrong with me? 

Pippa placed her mouth on my nipple.  Dread pressed against my chest.  What if she rejected me?  What if she was tongue tied?  What if she was allergic to my milk? 

Pippa latched on and started sucking.  A physical sensation of relief spread across my body.  I was breastfeeding my baby.  The anxiety and guilt dissipated.  I would be a good mother.