I don't mean to brag, but my daughter and I were breastfeeding champions. I had taken a breastfeeding course at my local hospital before she was born so when the time came to give it our first try, I felt confident I knew what to do. When the nurses gently laid her little body across my chest, without any doubt in my movements, I grasped the back of her head with one hand and my breast in the other and gave them the introduction I had visualized over and over again during my pregnancy.
She latched, she sucked, she ate. It was truly beautiful, just like the pictures in the pregnancy books and the happy moms on the birthing videos. I almost couldn't believe how well it went and how easy it felt. I knew how extremely lucky I was, that many new moms struggle for weeks and even months to successfully breastfeed their babies.
In the weeks after leaving the hospital, my daughter continued to latch well and gain weight. She ate so well in fact, that I quickly scrapped the little notebooks I kept around the house tracking the times she ate and for how long. We were breastfeeding champions and I didn't need to worry. Every three hours, I effortlessly laid her across my tired body and for the ten or so minutes she ate, I closed my eyes and fought to hold in my tears for fear they'd land on her soft cheeks and she'd know my secret... that her mama was not well. I knew that when our bodies were skin to skin while she peacefully filled her tummy, we had reached perfection, but I couldn't shake how imperfect everything else felt about being a mother.
I suffered from debilitating postpartum depression and anxiety for the first six months of my daughter's life. I couldn't eat and couldn't sleep, I had panic attacks and crying spells that lasted for hours. I was a scary, sad version of myself that even I didn't recognize when I had the courage to glance at my sunken eyes and emaciated body in the mirror.
When some doctors told me I would have to stop breastfeeding so I could take medication to get better, I became even more depressed and hopeless. How could I give up the one the one thing I felt I was good at? That we were good at? Breastfeeding is what kept me afloat. It's what began the bond between my daughter and I and it graciously safeguarded that bond while I worked hard to overcome my illness. I couldn't let it go and I wouldn't. I had to find a way to keep breastfeeding.
Fortunately, I found a doctor who specialized in postpartum mental illness and pointed me to the research that so blatantly said that some medications that treat depression and anxiety are safe for breastfeeding mothers and babies. I knew I needed the medication to get better and now I could take it and still breastfeed. I didn't have to give up the one thing that no one could argue I was amazing at as a mother. My daughter and I could still be breastfeeding champions and my mind reveled at the thought of what else we could conquer together.
This post is part of HuffPost Parents' World Breastfeeding Week series. For more from the series, click here.