We speak of pregnancy and childbirth as being “transformative,” but what does this really mean? Explore this idea by seeing it through the eyes of four women interviewed by Ph.D. candidate Rachael L. Gerbic. Enjoy their candid narratives in her blog series.
Pamela’s transformative experience came in the form of a profound realization that she was solely responsible for another person’s well-being. Breastfeeding was for her, the most eye opening experience because it made her acutely aware of her son’s complete dependence on her. For Pamela it was, “realizing in that really profound way that I’m responsible for someone’s livelihood and they’re gonna die if I don’t step up and do what I have to do.”
When a nurse told her in the hospital that her baby was not getting a “nutritive suck”, her initial ideas that everything would just come naturally and instinctively vanished. Told to switch from the cuddly cradle hold she had adopted initially to the firmer football hold, and “get down to the business of eating,” Pamela felt “it all became very aggressive seeming to me, not this cozy, comforting process”.
And that’s where things became challenging. For the next month she agonized over whether to introduce a bottle or not, not wanting her son to experience nipple confusion but also not wanting him to starve to death. “The first four weeks I was tearful. Every time he ate I was questioning. I would, in tears, grab my pump, set it all up, pump like crazy and then I’d be like, Should I give it to him? Should I not?”
Plagued with self-doubt, Pamela suffered through those initial weeks but emerged with a “different kind of confidence”. She decided to trust her instincts and not give the bottle and everything eventually worked out; her son gained weight and everything was fine.
“The self-doubt was kind of crippling and it took a toll on him and it took a toll on me and I think I’ve emerged from that with a new confidence when it comes to going with my gut.”
What helped? Going to a new mom’s support group and “just getting to know him and trusting that the relationship would unfold.”
The relationship has indeed unfolded and in that process Pamela has learned some valuable life lessons and gained a new sense of herself. She says of her experience, “It was transformative in that tolerating [of] a little bit more angst, tolerating a little bit more frustration, being okay with it, being okay with missteps and things that go wrong, mediating my tendency to be such a perfectionist. It’s just not gonna happen that way.”