The Power of Milk: Breastfeeding as Redemption for moms who are survivors are abuse

This was something I wrote around my son's first birthday, when I was considering becoming a La Leche League leader. I think what I have written is still relevant, though

personal, and I hope that by sharing I can bring comfort to women who were once in my shoes.

It is my goal to eventually specialize in birth for survivors, and to offer counseling, group support and resources to those who need them. This is my first step in that direction.

In the beginning, I was not a fan of nursing, but I patiently kept on, hoping that I would attain some validation or a trick to make this experience more pleasant. This was one of my better decisions in life, and it wouldn’t be long before nursing provided me so

much more than I ever dreamed—a feeling of safety, and of love.

As a teen, and again later as a married woman, I had the misfortune of meeting some very bad men, and was raped multiple times. This is something that has haunted my days and almost every facet of my life. Through years of counseling I have developed skills for coping, but never felt like my body was a good place to 'live'. I always felt that it was a target for potential harm. I never really felt safe in my own skin, and had some very serious body image issues. It was rare I allowed my husband to touch my breasts during intercourse, because the sensations I associated with that tender act, were less than loving. While I was pregnant, I worried how I would cope with this while nursing. In my last trimester I was more frightened of nursing than I was of labor and delivery!

My labor and delivery was planned to be a natural birth at home, but things didn't go as I'd hoped, and I ended up on a pitocin drip with an epidural I didn't need or want, and lots of issues about how my body had failed me. I needed a doula, but didn’t know any better! I also had a very difficult pregnancy, and suffered from hyperemesis gravidarium, and lost 42 pounds in the first weeks of my pregnancy. I had scarcely

controlled vomiting for 7 of 9 months, and at delivery time, was still 20 pounds lighter than before I became pregnant. These issues only served to compound my feelings of resentment for my body, and I felt as if it didn't work, and never would-- I hated it all the more for these reasons.

It was very difficult for me to surrender control of my body on someone else's terms, and someone else's schedule, even if it was a tiny, helpless little infant. I really struggled with my baby's seemingly constant need for my breasts in the first days. I called La Leche League for support more than once, and cried to my husband. It was so difficult for me to 'let go' of the control I had maintained over my body for so many years in order to feel safe as a result of the violence I'd been through.

But slowly, after a few more weeks of nursing, the soreness and engorgement went away, and I began to treasure the time my baby spend nuzzled and sleeping 'at the tap', as my husband would say. The resentments I had harbored against my body for years as a result of violence, mistreatment, and my pregnancy 'failings' melted away as I began to realize that my body was doing the most amazing thing... it was nourishing my son with the milk and love he needed to learn, grow, and bond to me in those critical first days. I suddenly stopped resenting the seemingly constant need for him to nurse, and fell in love with my son and my breasts. Surrendering this most feminine part of myself became a source of pride, wonder, and awe, as my son nursed early and often, and established the most intimate connection I have ever felt. This changed my life, and my relationship with my body-- something that 10 years of therapy could not do.

With time, I came to know my body in a way I never had, and as my son continued to nurse with vigor, I learned how amazing it is to be a woman, and that my breasts were the most amazing gift I had ever been given. For me, breastfeeding had redeemed all acts of violence and failure, and allowed me to love my body and realize it's power for the first time.

And now I vow to help women find this joy in their own breasts, regardless of their size, their history, or their reluctance. Breasts are powerful things, and I can’t wait to help you discover yours!


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