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I Didn’t Know

I lay shivering on the couch buried under two blankets, nursing my 10-week-old, with my toddler desperately clinging to my lap hoping for some attention.

Danielle Heckel, Phoenix, Arizona

“I need a picture of this,” I croak at my husband.

He looks at me unable to hide his surprise, “Seriously? You want a picture of THIS?”

It was an odd request, because I looked as terrible as I felt. I lay shivering on the couch buried under two blankets, nursing my 10-week-old, with my toddler desperately clinging to my lap hoping for some attention. I was hours into my third bout of mastitis in two months. I felt as if a truck had hit me; my body ached so badly. My right breast was inflamed and so sore I could barely move. I cried in pain when my baby latched, but endured it, knowing it was the only way to find relief.

I didn’t know how bad mastitis could be. “I didn’t know” was the beginning of too many of my sentences regarding breastfeeding. One week into motherhood, I desperately fumbled trying to latch a hungry newborn, crying, “I didn’t know how hard this would be.” A few months later, I sat nursing my smiling baby girl, saying, “I didn’t know how much I’d love it.” By my daughter’s first birthday I was tearfully pleading, “I didn’t know I wouldn’t want it to end.”

Why didn’t I know all of this about breastfeeding? I had taken the classes and read the breastfeeding section in the books. I didn’t know, because the women in my life didn’t talk about it and they certainly didn’t nurse in front of you. I was the first and only mother I saw breastfeed before my first La Leche League meeting. I had never seen a friend wince in pain from a shallow latch, smile because her baby drifted off to sleep on the breast, or have the look of dread when she felt a hard lump and knew it was another clogged duct. I didn’t SEE breastfeeding for everything that it is.

So, in response to my husband’s surprise I explained, “Yes, a picture of this, because this is breastfeeding.” I want all the other mothers out there to know everything I didn’t…it’s hard, brutal at times, and it can be painful and ugly. But it can also be beautiful and feel wonderful and you can love it more than you thought possible. You can look forward to it and sigh in relief as your baby latches. It can give you butterflies and make you feel like your heart is going to burst with love. It is all of these things…the good AND the bad. It’s about time we talk about it. Let’s get through the hard times and celebrate the magical times…together.

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