I have forever been known as a quitter when it came to sports. My soccer career peaked at age five because picking grass while practicing pirouettes was much more amusing than kicking the ball. I am just not one to see things through. It still amazes me that I ran the Philadelphia Marathon in 2013. I did not train for this marathon as I should have. I woke on the weekends because my husband (aka “the whip-cracker”) set the alarm and came along with me on every run. He knew I would not reach my goal otherwise. He even gifted me a shirt that reads, “Making excuses since 1987.”
So, when it came to breastfeeding, I went into it thinking that I’d likely give up pretty soon. I saved all of the formula samples, assuming that I would need to try them all. When my daughter was born, she nuzzled into my chest and latched on like a champ and I fell in love with breastfeeding.
My husband despises snuggling, but this infant wanted nothing more than to nestle into my shoulder nook and eat her little heart out. My problem was, I couldn’t ever leave her. While bridesmaids dress shopping, I was a leaking mess. On a quick trip to Target, I soaked through my white nursing tank. Milk basically seeped out of me in all directions, staining most everything I owned, even my wooden bedframe.
While breastfeeding was delightful, I knew it would have to come to an end when I went back to work and I would have to succumb to using that dreaded milking machine. They call it a breast pump, but when I flipped the switch I felt like I was I transformed into a large cow at the beck and call of my tiny human.
About a week before going back to work, a dear friend’s twenty-five-year-old sister passed away. There was no chance I would let her go through that day alone. I dropped my daughter at my mom’s house and sobbed alongside my friend through the service. A luncheon at a local restaurant followed, so I went, even though my breasts felt like rocks by this point and the slightest hug from a relative or former high school teacher would cause an eruption of liquid gold (While I believed it was liquid gold, I’m rather sure that others would feel disgusted with my bodily fluids all over them).
What was I to do? Pump in my car and risk the pastor parking next to me with my nipples pulsating in and out of plastic? Pump in the bathroom?
I decided on the later and recruited my two closest single girlfriends to assist me. I had barely used a pump before. The only plug was placed next to the sink across from the two stalls. The line of grievers piled up behind me as I took over the one stall. One of friends assured that the wire didn’t plop into the sink and that the door to the stall stayed ajar. None of us can remember what we talked about, but we had conversation so nonchalant, one would believe that we were seasoned mothers. At one point in our twenty-minute journey, we had the entire ladies room laughing. Blotchy, tear-stained faces came in the bathroom and left with a smile.
Even with pumping in public, I persevered and, for once in my life, did not make excuses. Even in events where I should’ve quit—could’ve very easily quit—I worked through my insecurities and self-doubt and provided what I felt was best for my daughter. I often think of the words of Father Jim Curran, my college pastor (by far the wisest priest I know): “If you always did what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”
If I continued to make excuse after excuse with breastfeeding, I knew I would end up disappointed—I was disappointed at the marathon and had I given up when breastfeeding got hard, I would’ve been disappointed too. There are so many joys that I missed out on by quitting things that could’ve brought so much satisfaction.
I’m hoping that I get an edited t-shirt in the near future: “Making progress since 1987.”
Bio: Alison Mezzanotte, wife to Steve and Mommy to Claire, teaches 7th and 8th grade in Philadelphia. When she’s not taming a toddler or a teenager, she enjoys yoga, running, and spending time visiting her family and friends.