The 4th Trimester - Breastfeeding - Northern Virginia Motherhood Photographer
I went to Marissa's house in Alexandria to do a newborn and postpartum session. I was originally hired to do a birth story, but due to an infection and emergency c-section, she decided she wanted me to come to her home once she got settled.
Marissa and I quickly became good friends. She has a beautiful soul and the rawness of her session spoke to me. Not only because it shows honest motherhood, but because I had very similar experiences.
We quickly realized that there was something missing in all the breastfeeding photos out there. Something is not being talked about. Marissa texted me telling me how upset it made her. Why was her hard work not perceived the same!? We want to change that.
"I think the most common question I got when I was pregnant was “are you planning to nurse?” Or the more aggressive version “you’re planning to nurse, right?” First of all, it’s none of your damn business but, my answer was always “yes”. (I don’t know what it is about being pregnant, everyone around you takes it as a license to give unsolicited advice.) Truth is, I was looking forward to breastfeeding. I had always dreamed of sharing that closeness, those bonding moments with my baby. I knew from some friends that it would be painful at first. I knew my mom struggled with it, but I was optimistic I would have success. I could visualize it. However, from the minute I was induced, nothing went according to plan. A long labor with intense interventions led to infection and an emergency c section. My baby was whisked off to the NICU so we were denied those first skin to skin moments with no chance to try to nurse. She was bottle fed in the NICU for 48 hours. While she was in the NICU, the lactation specialist told me I had “flat nipples” and would need a nipple shield to be able to nurse. After visiting my daughter in the NICU, I would go down to my room, pump as much colostrum as I could get and then run it back up to the NICU so she could get it via syringe. By the time we got home, nursing had us both so frustrated. Sometimes Charlotte would latch, other times she would SCREAM, flailing her arms, sending the nursing shield flying. The first night we were home from the hospital, I sat up in bed trying to nurse her while my husband yelled at me that I was “doing it wrong” and proceeded to make me watch every YouTube video he could find on how to breastfeed. I knew none of those women had nipples like mine. I knew I was doing everything else right. I cried and cried. I went to another lactation specialist where, of course, Charlotte put on a show and ate like a champ with no crying, only to continue giving me a hard time at home. She would scream, I would cry. My nipples were scabbed and bled every time I fed her.
When I went for my two week postpartum checkup, my doctor did a postpartum depression screening and I burst into tears. (Oh and by the way, I now had a raging infection in my incision.) I explained that feeding Charlotte was such a source of anxiety for me because getting her to nurse was so miserable for both of us. Every time she successfully latched, it felt like someone was slowly slicing off my nipples with razor blades. Five minutes after nursing, she would fall asleep and need to feed again twenty minutes later. I was upset because I was pumping more and more and giving her more bottles every day. I felt like a failure. My doctor simply said “Marissa, we don’t live in a third world country. There is no need for her to be attached to your breast all day long. If you can pump and give her a bottle of your breast milk, you’re doing her just as much good. That’s breastfeeding too.” It was that moment I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders. I knew I could pump. I had been doing it since we were in the hospital. It was that day that feeding my daughter turned into something enjoyable rather than something I dreaded. I was able to speak sweetly to her and kiss her head while she ate instead of crying while she wailed. It also meant that feedings took twice the time. Having to pump and then feed her or feed her and then pump meant that’s really all I was doing all day and night, but I was willing and I’ve made it work ever since.
Society made me believe only nursing on the breast is breastfeeding. Society made me feel like I was failing my daughter by pumping and giving her breast milk in a bottle. Society brainwashed my husband to believe that nursing is easy and natural and therefore I must be doing it wrong and "needed professional help". WHY IS PUMPING NOT ACKNOWLEDGED AS BREASTFEEDING?! Why is this not talked about?! Why is my breast milk in a bottle any less than if it came from her suckling on my nipple? You try comforting a screaming baby while your boobs are exploding and milk is going everywhere. You try pumping and feeding your baby at the same time because the sound of the pump woke her up. You try getting literally anything done during the day between feeding your baby and pumping. Everyone talks about normalizing breastfeeding. Well that’s great, but how bout we normalize pumping?! How about we acknowledge that breastfeeding is flipping hard and PAINFUL?! Nursing may be a “natural” process but by no means comes with ease and I’m tired of being embarrassed to post a picture of my daughter with a bottle in the background because news flash: it’s filled with the same liquid gold. To anyone who pumps, you’re a f**king rockstar and you’re not alone. And to anyone who has tried everything and can’t nurse or pump, to anyone who has low supply and supplements with formula (I do!) you’re a rockstar, too. Because at the end of the day, a healthy baby is all that matters and we’re all just doing the best we can for our kids."