Every time I want to write Gwyneth Paltrow's GOOP off as just another celebrity's overhyped (and self-centered) musings, she goes and does something like this.
Confessing she suffered postpartum depression after giving birth to Moses, Paltrow asked not only an expert to weigh in, but actress Bryce Dallas Howard, fresh off her success in Eclipse.
Howard just wrote my story.
She threw up for six months during pregnancy (seven for me). Her stretchmarks are "obscene" (I can never wear a t-shirt that rides up again).
And then came her description of breastfeeding:
For me, breast-feeding was even more painful than giving birth. And despite a lactation consultant offering help, I felt incompetent. I refused to give up, forcing myself to do everything possible so that my son would consume only my breast milk with no supplementation. I forged on, barely sleeping, always either breast feeding or pumping and never getting the hang of it. Occasionally I drifted off for a few minutes, but that decision to “feed at all costs” left me no room for recovery, no space to explore my feelings, no time to rest.
Minus the lactation consultant -- I live in the boonies with no access and my insurance wouldn't have covered it anyway -- that was my story.
I wanted to breastfeed. I needed to breastfeed. Raised by a breastfeeding mother, having read every study and book out there, I was hellbent on giving my baby the very best start in life.
And two weeks into it, I was still not getting it right. I was following what I now know was bad advice in the hospital -- studies have now shown just how poorly educated maternity ward nurses are on the whole about breastfeeding -- getting up every two hours to wake my baby to eat, and every other hour to pump to up my production.
Like Howard, I was getting no sleep because there was no time.
And so I sunk into the numbness that is postpartum depression.
I refused to leave my house except for my daughter's follow-up visit to the pediatrician and my follow-up visit to the OB/GYN.
This is why the breastfeeding wars bother me. Because the power of breast milk is real. But so too is the power of helplessness.
Postpartum depression took a mother from my daughter. I was at once listless and racked with anger.
I rotated between hysteria and freakish calm.
I was depressed because I was failing my daughter. And I resented the hell out of her, this perfect baby just lying there, crying for me to put boob to mouth, to fill her up.
Joy Behar recently criticized Bethenny Frankel for saying she found breastfeeding hard. Behar -- whom I usually love -- said she didn't think it was hard, so please don't put that out there.
Sorry, Joy, but women aren't stupid. Telling us something is "hard" doesn't mean we won't do it if the end result is something so good.
But if we're faced at every corner with stories of roses and rainbows, when the going gets really tough, we will internalize it. We will get angry ... and then turn off the pain.
We will let failure swallow us whole.
I tried to breastfeed. I wanted to breastfeed. I needed to breastfeed.
But in the end, my daughter needed a mother. With treatment, she got that.
As Howard said, “How can I take care of my son if I can’t take care of myself?”
Ladies, whatever your trigger is, your kids need you more than anything else.
Image via Tostie14/Flickr