Before you got pregnant, how did you feel about your boobs?
I was obsessed with mine. Ironically, I have been a little boob obsessed my whole life. When I was in middle school, I tortured myself daily wondering when my boobs would grow. I prayed for my period because I thought getting a period meant getting boobs (it didn’t). I had one dirty little training bra that I refused to let my mom wash because I only had one and I refused to take it off.
In high school, I had little B cups, but my nipples pointed down and I was ashamed of that.
In college I gained the freshman 15, which turned into the college 30 and my boobs came in full force. Always looking down at the ground. But, I could hitch them up and put them on display. They were a wonderful distraction from my soft tummy and they earned me a lot of attention. But I still hated them. I hated my body. I hated myself.
I struggled intensely with my body image as a teenager and young adult. I had a lot of incredibly unkind self talk and engaged in self-harming behaviors. When I got pregnant at 24, I set a narrow, goal, I would birth at The Birth Center with no drugs. I would exclusively breastfeed. This is it. I was giving my body one chance to redeem itself. If it performed perfectly, I would love it.
It did happen to pull through, but, I was lucky. And young (this reproduction stuff goes much easier in younger bodies).
What if something had gone wrong that was completely out of my control and I couldn’t achieve my goal? What if I needed to be in the hospital for safety? What if I didn’t make enough milk or Lucy hadn’t latched on? I didn’t know anything about setting an intention along side my goal. If I had failed to meet my extreme goals, I wouldn’t have the intention to “nourish my baby” to fall back on. Less than perfect would have felt like devastation and failure. I didn’t love my body, I gave it an ultimatum. It would take years before I truly learned who to love my body through all my versions.
Some of you may be falling short of your birth and breastfeeding goals.
Maybe you feel as if your body let you down. Again.
Perhaps after years of trying to get pregnant, you struggled to breastfeed.
“Figures” you said, “my body has never been able to do anything right.”
Maybe after years of hating the odd shape of your breasts, wondering why your areola are so big, wondering why one breast is so much smaller than the other, you struggled to breastfeed.
“Figures,” you said. “They were always ugly.”
Maybe after a long labor you needed to birth via cesarean and you struggled to breastfeed.
“Figures,” you said. “Nothing about my birth went right. Why would breastfeeding be any different?”
But to all of you who have heard this voice in your head confirming what you always “knew” to be true of your breasts and your body, I ask you this:
If your child falls at the playground and skins their knee, would you say to them “Figures. You fall every time we come here and you will fall every time you ever go to a playground.”
You would need to be pretty mean to say this to your child. Someone you grew. Someone for whom you are responsible for nurturing.
If your child falls at the playground and skins their knee, you love them. You pick them up and kiss them on the head and tell them that their body is strong and resilient. You tell them, “you will trip and fall, but you must always get back up and trust that your body will carry your wherever you want to go.”
If you have never liked your breasts and you are trying really hard to breastfeed, but you have had set back after set back, love your breasts. Tell them that they are beautiful and bountiful. Praise them for the milk that they make. Thank them for the emotional bond they have allowed you to have with your baby. Tell them that no matter what happens in life, the three of you are in this together, so no matter what the set back, you will carry them wherever you go.
If you lost the birth you planned or your body is struggling to breastfeed, tell yourself, “this may feel devastating in this moment, but there is so much more to parenting than birthing and breastfeeding. There is so much more to parenting than what we have planned.”
No matter what your parenting goals, your parenting intention is to love and nourish your child. This intention alone is enough.