Cassi Clark lifts the lid on her breastfeeding journey.
“Breastfeeding is a bitch. Don’t let that bullshit line ‘women have been doing it for millennia’ fool you. Successfully breastfeeding takes courage, resilience, patience, and support, and it always has.”
The first line in my book, Breastfeeding Is a Bitch, But We Lovingly Do it Anyway, was as much for me as for my readers, and the sentiment that spurred me to write it. I wrote a memoir, like Flannery O’Conner’s quote, to discover what I know, to avoid years of therapy and found my people.
I endured My Little Milkaholic screaming at my breast rather than latching to it, the excruciating pain of vasospasm due to a tied tongue, an allergic reaction to the vasospasm medicine, nausea during pumping, early and constant teething, and loneliness like I’d never felt. That is until I reached out to my saintly fellow mommas (because, really, aren’t all mommas saints?) for their stories. I didn’t think I could do breastfeeding justice, both the good and the painful with only my own stories, so I gathered stories from family, friends and acquaintances. They told me about mastitis, pumping at work and failed breastfeeding. They gave me advice on liniments, touted the benefits of bottles (like napping while daddy and baby bond), and shared several hysterical stories of breastfeeding in public, babies latching to momma’s nose; it goes on. These women helped me discover what I knew: that women are gluttons for punishment. Wait. I mean the strongest most loving group of people ever.
Through writing the book, I also discovered that we women do not live in a vacuum despite the loneliness. We live in the shadow of our mothers, at the mercy of social media postings and most horrifyingly: in our own heads. A fellow writer read the book to give me feedback. She gave me great notes, but then asked, “If you had such a hard time, why did you breastfeed for so long?” It was a question I could not answer truthfully, because I did not know and my BS answers were far easier to come up with.
The thing about writing memoir, versus most other types of writing, is its personal nature. There are few better tools for getting to your heart, the core of your emotions than writing about them. I took my friend’s question back to some of the women who’d shared their hard-fought success stories, and received beautiful insights into their hearts. So, I sat with a limp first draft of my book blazing on my computer and discovered a deeply delusional definition of what a good mother is.
Writing Breastfeeding Is a Bitch, But We Lovingly Do it Anyway, started out as a way to connect with other women who had problems breastfeeding like me and my saints, to create something for the lonely 3 a.m. feeders to know they are not alone. But it turned into catharsis, healing and bonding. I personally came to terms with mommy-hood, my saints told their stories and healed their emotional wounds, and our readers will hopefully find commiseration, community and even some good laughs.
We cheer “Breastfeeding! Yay!” on social media, and around our female friends with feminist pride. But at 3 a.m. you may be cudgeling yourself with, “Oh, dear god, what have we done?” Intellectually, we all know it’s better for our babies, and instinctually, many of us want to do it. But our pregnant daydreaming does little to prepare us for the pain, frustration, self-judgment, and fear that we may experience by choosing to breastfeed. Breastfeeding can be all angels and rainbows. But more often it is an unlatching baby screaming at you, cracked nipples that feel like they’re being held in a vice-grip and licked by a cat, 3 a.m. freak-outs, explosively painful engorged boobs, flu-like mastitis.
And then there’s pumping. And that is why, even considering breastfeeding makes you a saint. We tell ourselves that breastfeeding is natural, and therefore we should all be able to do it. While it is natural, it is not easy. This book is for every woman who found the truth of breastfeeding to be somewhat askew from her pre-baby fantasies, and for every woman who does not want to be taken by surprise by the latch – or lack there of.
This book is not intended for diagnosis, but for entertainment and commiseration. Includes topics like: Latching onto Latching, Screaming at the Breast, Nursing Mothers Do it in Groups, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Pumping, Woman vs the Cover, And Then There Were Teeth, The Bottle Battle, Mastitis, Engorgement and Other Pains in the Boob.
Cassi Clark is an author, a journalist, and a web writer, a Master of Public Administration, a mother, a knitter, a skier, and an adventurer. She is a Colorado Native, an Oregon Duck, a former Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Ski Instructor and a New York City survivor. In addition to Breastfeeding Is a Bitch, But We Lovingly Do It Anyway, she is working on her first historical fiction novel about an ambitious female psychopath in 1912 Denver. She lives under the shadow of nineteenth century stained glass in Denver with The Best Husband Ever and her Little Milkaholic.