"Breastfeeding saved my life. Literally."

The winner of the lovely Baby gift set kindly donated by the wonderful Bubs for Babes for World Breastfeeding Week had to be Rialda Plotz de Vaal for her amazing breastfeeding story, which you can read below.

Breastfeeding saved my life. Literally.
After a horrible pregnancy, with bleeding, bedrest, severe PSD and prodromal labour my baby was born prematurely on 32 weeks. It was the toughest thing I ever went through, leaving that small little baby every night in the care of other people. She was ventilated and had a feeding tube, so I started expressing milk for her. When she was 10 days old, she latched for the first time. I was so happy, because I knew breastmilk was the best for her.

But the happiness didn't last long. After everything, I began to feel down. The pregnancy was tough, not only physically, but emotionally as well, and now that the baby was born, it didn't seem to get better. Especially with a toddler in the house as well. I was sad.

They call it postpartum depression. It’s a trick of hormones and chemicals, a misery of missed connections and neurons malfunctioning. I have forgotten, simply, how to be happy. Right now, happy is like a dream I half-remembered upon waking. Some days it’s closer than others, but it remains, always, out of reach.

My deep sadness is not because of her. It’s in spite of her, and that is, perhaps, the most cutting part. I am unshakably, unutterably sad amidst the miraculous gift of a baby.

I am unhappy. But being unhappy doesn’t mean I am unhappy with my children. Even in our roughest moments, in the times I cry because I’m so stressed and broken, I am happy with them. I love them even at their most exasperating moments. And I love my baby dearly. I love her when she's crying non stop, I love her when she won't give me a chance to breath, to comb my hair or brush my teeth. I love her when she makes me feel guilty for not having time left to spend with her big brother. I love her when I wake up with her in the dark quiet of the night, again and again and again. I love her in the midst of my pain.

It became so bad that I contemplated suicide. I decided I would drink pills - close enough to the end of the day when my husband would come off work so that the children won't be alone with their dead mom for too long. I'd sterilize bottles so that he could give milk to our baby when he came home. It became so bad that I believed any stranger on the street will be capable to look after my children better than me.

And then there are these people who rhapsodize about how babies don’t keep – those people can’t see the choking sadness inside of me. They mean well, truly. But depression’s invisibility is part of its own special hell: a drowning woman looks like she’s paddling in the sunshine. And if she dare call for a life preserver, people might not help. They’ll say it’s her own fault, feeding her baby every hour. She should have given formula. They’ll say she’s overreacting, that she’s got to ride out the hormones and the baby blues.

And the worst fear: that the world mistakes depression for rejection. That if I really loved my babies, they will say, I would be happy. So, I came to the point of planning the end of my life.

And then, in all of the planning, she cried.

She needed me. She was hungry and I was the solution to her problem. I picked her up and gave her milk. And in that moment, I felt the gray air around me change. This tiny human being was solely depending on me... I have everything she needs. So, when she was nursing and laying content in my arms, I realized that this is what I'm supposed to do. I'm supposed to hold her and feed her and see her grow up. And most of all, I'm supposed to love her unconditionally, and breastfeeding her is the best I can currently do.

And no matter how dark it is, I have them to care for. I may feel empty, but I make sure they know love. My arms feel heavy, but I put them around them. I am exhausted, but I pick them up. I kiss them despite my pain. They are my strength. I want the best for them. The best is a mother, no matter how broken she is. And that mom is me.

Rialda and Zhayli