Broken for You

For our WBW blog carnival on “Perspectives: Breastfeeding From Every Angle” we are pleased to host guest posts from various contributors. Today we are honored to share from Karen., Christian mother to two beautiful girls.

My hate affair with my body began when I was around 11. I went to bed one night and woke up a C cup. I was not the only one who noticed; boys and men everywhere took notice and somehow seemed to think that because they now stood out so far they were in community space and ripe for the picking. The couple of times it happened with a stranger were disconcerting and maddening, but it didn’t invoke the same fear as when someone you loved and trusted did it. I would soon give up my love of swimming because of a family member who always felt it was somehow “funny” to pull down the front of my swimming suit – in front of everyone. And my best friend in high school doesn’t know that our friendship ended because her father developed a creepy hug technique that always included approaching from behind so that his hands always managed to land on my breasts. Boys always assumed that big=easy. There were many times when a first date would pull up to some location and let me know what it was for. I learned to go on group dates and make sure I had a way out.

I spent my junior and high school years developing many anorexic rituals in the hope that losing extreme weight would make them smaller. Ironically, it just made them stand out more. It didn’t help when I was diagnosed with Scoliosis and the amazing therapeutic back brace worked like an old fashioned corset. While other girls looked at my cinched in waist with envy, I threw up in the bathroom because my anxiety about my body was ratcheting up to record highs.
Somehow as an adult many of these things worked themselves out. I married an awesome man who understood that I felt my body was my enemy and we just dealt with things as they came up. And come up they did: no one was more surprised then me when driving home from Christmas dinner one day “Oh crap, I’m pregnant.” The conversation began quite simply as I looked at my husband and said that dinner tasted weird. He felt it was yet another awesome and tasty one. And then the lightbulb went on, I was pregnant.

Pregnancy would turn out to be another instance in which my body had betrayed: I developed a condition which I now know to be Hyperemesis Gravidarum. So while other women went about their days registering at Target and picking colors and themes, I tried to stay out of the hospital and maybe managed to go to work a couple of days a week. I had plenty of time to lay in bed and contemplate the many ways in which my body was a complete and utter failure. And every time I went to the ob they would ask, “Are you going to breastfeed?”

I *wanted* to breastfeed. Intellectually I understood that it was best for my baby, and I certainly wanted that. But the idea of letting yet another human being, even one I loved so wholeheartedly, once again use my breasts for their personal gratification – even if I did so willingly – was laden with deep, emotional complications. My biggest fear is that I could not get past my own body issues and that they would seep into this precious bonding time and complicate it. Would I resent my baby? Would it cause me more fear and anxiety?

On the day my baby was born 2 things happened: 1) I was able to eat for the first time in 9 months. Suddenly and amazingly my body felt okay again. And 2) I realized that I was not personally in a healthy enough place to try breastfeeding my newborn baby. In the end, for me, it was the best decision I could make for my daughter. I understand the nutritional aspect of it, but I also understood that if I tried to do it – there would be emotional complications much to great for us to carry into the future. I did not want my relationship with my body and the scars of my abuse to affect us, to affect her.

Oddly enough 2 pregnancies and 1 child later – I had worked hard and healed emotionally enough that I would in fact attempt to breastfeed my child. And still, thanks in large part to Hyperemesis Gravidarum (months of dehydration left me unable to produce milk) and my breasts themselves (the rude lactation consultant assured me after violating me once again by opening my robe without asking that my nipples – their flatness – was an issue), my body failed me once again. After a few weeks of nursing and pumping non-stop, we switched to formula and supplemented with breastmilk bought from a milk bank. I was grateful to have that option available to me.

My prayer is that my daughters will be at peace with their bodies and will be able to breastfeed their children, should they choose to do so. But I know that no matter what they choose to do, I will love and support them in that because our bodies are not always our friends – and sometimes you can be broken in more than one way. I don’t want them to bring brokenness into their relationships with their children, just as I did not want to bring it into mine.
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Comments

  1. dohiyi mama says:

    This makes me both sad and happy. Sad for the horrible things you went through and happy that you were able to overcome it. Thank you so much for choosing to NOT breastfeed, for the best of your children. You are an incredible woman. All the best to you, Mama. <3

  2. rachel... says:

    I'm so sorry you had the experiences that you did. I didn't get the kind of physical violations that you did, but I developed early and have always had large breasts (and hated them. Always.) and I totally identify with the added attention and assumptions that brings. Aside from the nutritional and health benefits that breastfeeding has brought to both me and my children, I can honestly say that I have a respect and appreciation for my breasts and my body that I never had before becoming a nursing mother. I'm sorry that your experience didn't end that way, but I'm glad you're healing nonetheless.

  3. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, and a mom of 2 boys with our 1st girl on the way, I can relate to your story. Ds1 was never breastfed. At all. Ds2 was breastfed for all of 3 days. It was too much for me to handle. And now with dd on the way (I'm due in Nov.), I find myself unable to choose what way I will feed her. I just know that I'm so grateful my kids wont grow up being used by their dad like I was. I know my own daughter wont struggle like this with her own kids one day.