Finally, 24/7 care has slowed down as it has been said. We added a formula bottle here and there (the aforementioned pediatrician’s suggestion after I burst into tears in her office). The pumping time is well arranged, and the morning breastfeeding is all arranged by my husband, allowing me to catch up on sleep until around ten or eleven o’clock in the morning. In about three months, my daughter and I discovered the magic of the lateral position. As a novelist who writes many chapters in bed on a laptop, I’ve always been passionate about simplifying hard work by lying down. Nursing turned into closeness and cuddling, really beautiful things, all of which I was promised, but took me a long time to deliver.
Then something else happened – I found I couldn’t stop talking about my experience. The toll it took on my body and mind. Expect mothers to do it all with a smile and a glow. On social media, I shared some of my struggles, and soon my texts and inbox were flooded with messages from people I didn’t even know well — college friends’ wives, ex-colleagues, and People I grew up with – all there say they’ve been through it too, but they’re afraid to share how hard it is for fear of sounding like a bad mom.
So I did what I always do process trauma. I wrote. I set a murder mystery against the horror backdrop of new mothers, and we finally admitted it was a bit scary, and it was reflected more in film and TV. This book will occupy all my creative efforts and thoughts for a year and a half.
Some early reviews of the book started trickling in a few weeks ago – and in the usual reviews, I discovered something new: Some reviewers questioned why the book needed to portray So much breastfeeding, is this realistic for a woman caring for a six week old baby alone. I tweeted about it and the response was amazing. Women and pregnant parents have the same story all the time – breastfeeding is consuming. My experience is not unusual. It’s happening to people all over the world. So why don’t we ever see this? Why don’t we talk about the true cost of something so beautiful but at the same time so terrifying?
Because if we do, we have to think hard about what we’re asking, and the world we’re creating for new parents. Recipe shortage. Long hours and little protection for employees. Insisting that breastfeeding is “free” does insulting harm. We’re not ready to admit how much we’ve let our mothers down. So it’s still the magical and wonderful bond between mother and child that happens on schedule every four hours and, as one Twitter user quipped, is as simple as filling up a gas tank.
Breastfeeding can be beautiful, it really is. I did it with my daughter for a few months, and sometimes, I even miss it.
But it’s hard not to lose yourself. We also need to be allowed to share that side of it.
Leah Konen, mother of a three year old daughter, is still as hungry as ever. Her upcoming thriller, You Should Tell Me , based in part on her own experiences with breastfeeding and postpartum depression, opens Jan. 3.