How Painful It Is

I absolutely love that photo above that Hansel took of Phoenix and I.

And I struggled with deciding to post it here.
Not because my breast is exposed, but rather because my heart is so fully exposed, I feel.

I can't look at this photo right now without crying.
And it's through a shower of tears I write this post.

My dear Phoenix is 12 weeks old today, and this morning when we woke to begin our day nursing--once again the pain had became too unbearable to take.

I trudged on through as best as I could, then pulled a way and made him a bottle instead.

Like nothing, he fed on the plastic nipple and fell sweetly asleep in my arms and granted us another three hours of sleep, thank goodness.

But the truth of the matter is that once again my breast is infected.  The third time in 12 weeks, and I've done everything I feel I'm suppose to--visit my doctor,  a lactation consultant, treat myself, treat Phoenix, take herbs, probiotics, etc. etc.--and nothing seems to work. The infection keeps returning.

Breastfeeding is so painful for me.  And on top of it all, I learned a month ago that my breasts don't produce enough milk--and I've been supplementing anyways.

But it's not only my breasts, you see.  My whole body feels like it is calling out for help.  My back has been hurting, my hips, my incision where the c-section was, and my feet are even starting to fail me.

How come nobody ever told me that pregnancy and postpartum is so hard on the body?  That breastfeeding is not so easy peasy?

Or is it just me?

Between the lack of sleep, the extra body weight, the constant giving-giving-giving my body keeps doing, and not the greatest nutrition--no wonder I feel like I've hit a stone wall.

I sit here tonight writing this post, with tears streaming down, because I know what has to be done.  I have to listen to my body--instead of trying to push through it all or find answers from somewhere else or just keep trying to fix it and be some superMom.

I need to heal.
I need to heal.
I need to heal.

Not just from the past 12 months I have gone through of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum--this pain my body is experiencing, I feel goes deeper than that.  It's evident to me now when I find myself on the Yoga mat.

All of a sudden my body doesn't feel like my own.  I'm a beginner once again.  A foreigner to this landscape-- learning each pose--how to be in my body--how to feel my limbs present in space.

But it's even deeper than that, you see.

This pain is asking me to pay attention. To see that it stems from some place within myself that doesn't respond to doing more or taking this or even being something else other than who I am right now.  It's coming from a place that knows that my old ways of doing things no longer serve me.  That it's time to let go.  Let go.  Let go.

And when I look at that photo above--I see how sweet the bond is between me and Phoenix--and I know it's deeper than the act of milk to mouth.  And I realize that this is only the beginning for me.  That motherhood is an endless series of letting go of moments just like these.  The bittersweet blessing of nourishing another Soul that is never meant to be your own.

But nobody told me it would be this hard.

That in the middle of birthing a son, I would be birthing a new self as well.  That the pains I kept hidden and refused to acknowledge for years and years would rise to meet me in the most raw and clever of ways.

That one morning you simply wake up and realize that you are now the mother--
To a beautiful baby boy--
And the parts of yourself that refuse to be neglected no longer.


Robin Westphal said...

I remember those days like they were yesterday, you describe it perfectly. Do whats best for you!

Christine said...

Sweet babymoon blessings to you, Connie. I feel strongly that our culture doesn't honor the post-partum period as the immense physical, emotional, and spiritual transition that it is. And I don't mean six weeks! I mean the 12, 18, 24 months that it can sometimes that a mother, a family unit, to find their new normal)

Continue to be gentle with yourself. Your gift of reflection and your loving, open heart are such a gift. Breastfeeding can be an amazing experience for mama and baby, but it is not requirement for being a bonded, attached mama. I'm as pro-breastmilk as it comes, but it hurts my heart to see new mamas turning themselves inside out when nursing is just not working out.

Gentle ease and sweet snuggles to you and your sweet soul <3

morningDove said...

what a tender-hearted post so full of love. i remember - i remember my first-a son-wanting to breastfeed and having to work and yada-yada-yada. I stopped probably about this time to - the pain was horrific. But today i am the proud mom of a married son who loves me and tell me many times how much he loves me. The Bond indescribable and priceless. take a breath and relax into the moment of now.
then my second and third sons and breastfeeding would probably still be going on today, lol. theirs were easy, everyone diffferent.

darrah parker said...

Oh, sweet friend. I want to hold your hand and listen and nod my head. All of this, all you are experiencing is part of the journey of motherhood. Even if they did warn you, you wouldn't understand it fully until you were there - in it. I have been there in the thick of it, and all I can say is that it is all temporary. While you're in it, it feels endless, but it will get better. The best thing you can do for you and your baby is take care of YOU - whatever that means. xoxo to you and your fam. (Let's schedule a phone or Skype date when you are feeling up to it.)

SaraAmarie said...

Sending so much love and gentle hugs your way! Postpartum really is a hard time. A time where being easy on yourself is so needed more than any other time in life, and especially the breastfeeding part of it. Don't beat yourself up about the decisions you feel lead to. Treat yourself with loving care!

With my older daughter I had infection after infection and it does hurt like hell! lol Take care of you! With my younger I had supply issues too. It broke my heart to have to stop early but it really was for the best and we have a strong bond despite it. Breastfeeding isn't always the peaceful, beautiful thing its made out to be. Trust yourself. Lots and lots of love!

Rochelle said...

prolly doesn't feel like it at times but you remain so attuned, so wise, so honest - are and always have been. Oh yeah, one more SO -- So inspiring. You RAWK mama

sending you lots of love
grateful to be in your orbit

Apple said...

Hang in there...things will get better!! :)

sadie said...

Oh everything you say and more is soso true! I had mastitis multiple times with both of my sons and wasn't able to produce enough milk to satisfy my first son. I also supplemented and just pumped what I could. I became pregnant with my second when the first was 7 months old. That is when I really listened to my body and weaned the first one. With my second I was able to produce enough milk and did breast feed him without supplementing --goes to show you never know what will happen.
I had been a yoga teacher prior to my first pregnancy and like you did not visit the mat while pregnant. And my body did not feel like my own post partum. I felt betrayed by it all--the physical pain, the exhaustion and the overall bewildered feeling that "I am the mommy of this little person--you have got to be kidding me!". NO ONE told me this would happen. I just thought I would naturally ease into this role as so many before me had. Ha! But I found that if I just listened to my little baby and let him show me what he needed that he taught me how to be a mommy and the only things I needed to know came from him--the source and my heart.
And from reading the beautiful things you write on your blog, I know that you know all of this too. My sons are now 5 1/2 and 4 1/2 and I still wrestle and wonder if I am doing the "right" things. I try to listen in the quiet and trust.
I know you do the same.

Inner Artist said...

Dear Connie, I've been there with my first (37 years ago now!). You've given your gorgeous little man such a wonderful start in life, with 3 months of breastfeeding - bonding, immune defense etc. You absolutely don't need to beat yourself up because you just can't keep going with breastfeeding him. Because of the pain when he feeds, you will be very anxious, so that's probably stopping your milk coming down properly. That only makes you more anxious and it becomes a vicious cycle. You'll be much more relaxed with him when feeding if you're not in pain and that can only be a good thing for him and your bonding with him. And, of course, his Papa can now play a bigger role in feeding him, which is great for THEIR bonding! Of course you will be grieving for that precious part of your relationship with him but you can move without guilt into the next stage and just enjoy him without anxiety. Big, big hugs for you and your beautiful family. xxoo

This Moment said...


I know where you're coming from in the sense that I breastfed my daughter (11 years ago) and had a C-section. I also was in such awe at the love I felt for her but also in awe of how my body changed physically and how emotionally my life was turned upside down. You are listening to the signs (something I didn't do) so you are one step ahead of the game. You are caring for yourself, body and soul - good for you! Do what you need to nurture what your bod is asking for:)


April said...

I am so sorry you are going through this. I nursed my son until he was 5 months old and gave it up because I was recently promoted to a new position as a supervisor and and felt bad about taking time at work to pump. I didn't produce much milk and I remember setting my alarm to get up in the middle of the night to pump so I would have enough to send to the sitter the next day. I sat there one night, pumping for all I was worth, and crying because I did not put out much. I felt really bad about giving up nursing because my sister nursed her first child until he was over a year old and I felt like I had to be like her. I would say I had nursed my son for the last time and then, would nurse him 'just one more time'. My son is now a strapping 14 year old, about to begin high school. I had the opportunity when my son was 3 to quit that horrible job and stay home with my son until he began kindergarten. That time spent with him is time I will always treasure. The fact that you are agonizing over this tells me that you are a good mother and that you love your son. The time you have nursed him is to his benefit, much better than if you had never nursed at all. Maybe if you do have to give up nursing, there will be some relief to your body and your spirit and the time spent with your son might be stress free. You are doing the best that you can--no beating yourself up--no mommy guilt--There's enough of that from the mommy wars in our culture. No one can take care of your little one like you, so do what you feel is right and best for your baby, yourself, and your family. Trust your instincts as his mother, make your best decisions and go forward. I wish you and your family all the best.

Introverted Art said...

Listen to your body and your soul. There is no right and wrong, and the love Phoenix feels from you can be felt from your breast or the bottle. I think your photo is a beautiful poem.

Karen C. said...


It feels so overwhelming at times, but it does get better and better. I know when you look at the beautiful face of Phoenix that it helps so much. Rest a lot. Lie around a lot. Don't do a lot. Things will be there tomorrow and the next day.

Sending love your way. xoxo

Lucy Chen said...

Hi Connie, thank you for sharing such deep emotions with us.
I was very lucky not to have the infection even though breast feeding my first baby was not easy, I got blisters all the time (but with my 2nd it's much better). And I was also l was lucky enough to give births naturally for both of my babies, although it was super painful at the time.
Sometimes I would have the silly thought of "am I just the baby's food source and nothing else", but I know it's silly but it's curious how such a silly thought keeps returning to my mind.
Our body goes through a lot of change from the moment we're pregnant. I thought I was lucky and I'd recovered well, until we went to Karaoke (singing) the first time with the babies last month in 2 years. I used to be an okay singer, but this time, it simply wasn't right. I was unable to sing many of the songs I used to sing well. There was not enough strength in my stomach (in Chinese, it's called "Qi") and lungs. I was very surprised.
Of course, what I mentioned here is nothing comparing to the pain you're suffering now.
Know that your baby loves you, and all is worth it.

Stacie said...

I had read, 22 years ago, that the body does not recover from pregnancy and child birth for up to 12 months... longer if C-section. Your body is still working on healing the pregnancy "damage" on top of healing a major surgery.
I am all for breast feeding, but when it is a burden and drains you it's time to let it go. There is nothing wrong with feeling relieved to take that pressure off of yourself. IMO too many breastfeeding mothers are way too attached to the idea of it, the should's etc. You develop your bond with the baby during the time you spend with him... and to me it's much better to have that time be enjoyable to both.
Hugs sweet lady.

Creatively yours Fi said...

Oh Connie I hear your pain. So many women will benefit from reading your raw and honest post. Nobody tells you about post partum...I remember it being an extremely difficult time. My community actually had/has a Post Natal Depression walking group with a fitness instructor and mid wife. I wasn't post natally depressed but I found it to be a life line during my early days with my wee bub. I could talk and share my difficulties with breatfeeding etc. Becoming a mother is the most incredible experience. The new self is someone amazing to get to know xX

j said...

"That in the middle of birthing a son, I would be birthing a new self as well."

That's a beautiful statement, a "how else could it possibly be?" statement.

I had all the same troubles you've had breastfeeding. I got infections, my nipples cracked and bled, the doctor said I wasn't producing enough and my already tiny boy wasn't "thriving." (Talk about a punch in the gut.)

You are so much wiser than I was, though. You and Pheonix (and Hansel) are so fortunate to have each other. xoxo

Kymberleigh Anne said...

{{{HUGS}}} Just keep doing what you are doing -- loving your son, treasuring the moments and pushing forward. Listen to what your body tells you and give it what it needs, just as you give your beautiful son what he needs. You are doing GREAT!

You have a whole world of support behind you. Hang in there!

Blissful Pumpkin said...

Dear Connie,
One of the hardest and upsetting decisions for me was letting go of the belief that "I should be able to breast feed, I am a woman". With all 3 children I never had enough breast milk. You name it , I tired it. But certainly with my first I found not being able to do 'what is supposed to come naturally' extremely upsetting. I remember my husband saying "she's not getting enough. Let's top her up with a bottle". Words can not adequately describe how inadequate I felt. I breast fed for 6wks with child 1, 8wks with child 2 and 9wks with child 3. With my second child I had 3 bouts of mastitis in 5 weeks. I remember how much it hurt. I would cry during every fed.
My only advice would be to keep your fluids up, particularly water, but most of all do what's best for you. You really need to take care of yourself. Phoenix needs you, but will adapt and slot right into your schedule. I truly believe that a happy and healthy Mum makes a happy family. It will all work itself out. You will see.

Take care fellow LifeBook teacher. Hugs, Kylie xo

Alisha said...

To answer your question.... No it's not just you. :) Personally I feel like motherhood has ransacked my body. Everyone's experience is different though. I think there may be a big misconception going on because those that struggle often keep quiet, and those that "bounce right back" are celebrated.

pedalpower said...

Your post brings back such sweet and bittersweet memories! I nursed two boys with no problem (it hurt for a while but did get better). I fully expected to nurse my daughter, but it was not to be. Even though I'd nursed 2 and did know what I was doing I could never get her to latch on properly. ...she made minced meat of my nipples. I stuck with it for several weeks. I can still remember the pain. I finally had to let my nipples heal and put her on formula..I was so upset! I wanted to nurse her for at least a year.

But you know, she did just fine. I couldn't bring myself to put her back on my newly healed breasts, and she stayed on the formuala and grew into a beautiful girl, who is now a successful young woman just graduated from college. It will be OK. Listen to your body and do what feels right. Trust your gut. Don't beat yourself up.

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