I can vividly remember Lucas’ third day of life. His first day, I was drugged and woozy. His second day I was overwhelmed with joy and oh so many visitors. But his third day, the day these pictures were taken,  was a day that hurt me to my core, which is why I can remember it so clearly. Lucas was starving and I just couldn’t feed him. Because of the c-section my milk wasn’t coming in, and whats worse is that Lucas wasn’t latching so I was bleeding and in such severe pain. Every time he sucked I cried. Every time I stopped him he cried. I felt helpless. The lactation consultant came in to Lucas and I both sobbing and wondered how such a perfect pair could be so upset with each other. And she was right, we were upset with each other, and it wouldn’t be the last time.  That day she really came to my rescue, and her tips helped me get to a successful place with breastfeeding, but those days were fleeting. They lasted maybe a month at best, while Lucas was a tiny sack of mini potatoes and couldn’t really fight me, but once he became a bit more mobile the screaming and scratching started. I had pictured these beautiful serene moments, cradling my son close to my chest while rocking him in his nursery and bonding in a way that I assumed only a breastfeeding mother and baby could do. Instead I got screams (his) blood (mine) and tears (his and mine). That’s when I decided to start exclusively pumping, and BOY what an isolating experience that was! While other people enjoyed feeding my one month old son from the bottle, I sat alone in my glider pumping away. Alone. In his nursery. All alone. No baby. With that pump sound that haunts a mothers dreams. Some of you know the one. It’s the worst.

Lucas’ tears had finally stopped, but mine hadn’t. The isolation made me sad, and made me long for connection to something other than a machine, so I put an end to the pumping saga. Sure I could have kept going. I wasn’t drying up. I had an INSANE supply (more on how I achieved that later). But I was unhappy. Beyond unhappy. Miserable actually. And I was (gasp!) once again mad at my baby.  Mad because he didn’t want me. Mad because he took to the bottle so easily. Mad because we had been here and made it out the other end, but somehow we got back here. Mad because I wanted to breastfeed, and I had the supply to enable me to breastfeed, but it wasn’t going the way I had always imagined. So, fuck it, right? Formula isn’t so scary. So many babies are fed formula and grow up to be beautiful healthy children. Plus, fed is best, and even if you believe that breast is best, a happy mom outweighs it every time. So, I stopped pumping and I don’t regret it a stitch. But stopping wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies. It was hard. It was emotionally and physically taxing. Below I’m breaking down the 6 things I was SO NOT prepared for when I stopped breastfeeding/pumping:

ONE: Every time I see a mother breastfeeding I still get a little jelly. Not like overly jealous to the point of crying, but just a lil’ flutter in my tummy that makes me wish I was able to calmly and effectively breastfeed Lucas.

TWO: The shame was weird and so not welcome. I had so much conviction in my decision, so I didn’t expect that when people asked me if I was still breastfeeding that I would feel an immense amount of shame when saying no, and that I would suddenly spring into a defense monologue. And OMG the shame of telling my Paediatrician, who BTW is SOOOO “breast is best”. I almost lied, no joke. If my husband wasn’t in the room, I might have. I’m beyond over it now, but at the time it just felt like something I needed to justify. Because of this, I never really ask people if they are breastfeeding their child. If they do breastfeed, they’ll eventually whip out their boob or excuse themselves anyway. And besides, it’s none of my business.

THREE: The way his spit up would smell. Oh my, the smell. Yep, I was definitely not ready for that. It’s seriously awful. First of all, he didn’t spit up all that often on breastmilk, but once he started taking formula, a couple spit-ups per bottle were basically inevitable. Suffice to say his laundry started to stink a hell of a lot more. The number of bibs I was going through a day quadrupled! When I was breastfeeding I didn’t use bibs, and because he didn’t spit up much when he drank my breastmilk from a bottle, we didn’t use them much then either. Once he was on formula I was going through about 4 bibs a day. Two words. Amazon Prime.

FOUR: Intentionally drying up is painful AF! Clogged ducts galore. I was constantly running my breasts under warm water. Sometimes I would wake up in the middle of the night just to put warm compresses on my boobs. I was lucky not to get mastitis, but I was dedicated to caring for my clogged ducts.

FIVE: Cabbage leaves feels way weird in your bra, but also…oddly soothing? If you don’t already know, cabbage is highly effective at relieving engorgement or drying up milk supply, so I spent the better part of 3 days with cabbage stuffed bras. It was as weird as it sounds but it worked like a charm.

SIX: I ended up regretting not taking more pictures and video of my son breastfeeding and of me pumping. Seriously, if you are doing either right now, you should get a few solid shots. I have zero photos of me pumping and a total of 3 pictures of Lucas on the boob. Now, I get that we don’t need to document every single part of our lives, but breastfeeding really is such a special time (even when it isn’t going well) and if it’s during the 4th trimester you’re probably in a brutal fog, so having some pictures to look back on helps to bring you back to that moment. Just whip it out and get that shot lady, because what you’re doing is bad ass and deserves to be documented.

Not too long ago, we decided to go through the freezer stash of breastmilk we had accumulated. We had been saving it for if he ever got sick, but this kid is a tank and he never really needed it. It was going to expire in the summer so we knew we had to use it up. The way Lucas took to it brought on some mama guilt for sure, but I guess I can’t cry over dried up milk.

As always, thanks for letting me share my story with you. I love you all for reading. xo

Fresh 48 Photography by Michelle Lina