Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Angie Forsett, California, USA
Angie’s story from Free To Breastfeed. Voices of Black Mothers
I got pregnant while training with the women’s national volleyball team. Breastfeeding was far away from my mind since I had, like, negative-A cups! But once the initial shock of the pregnancy set in, I began to romanticize what it would be like to hold, cuddle, and even nurse a baby. I knew that I wanted to breastfeed because both my mother and sister did, and they were both there to share their experiences and support. The image that was impressed upon my mind was me looking down at my newborn son suckling gently while I stroked his soft hair, and feeling the pure joy and accomplishment that I was the only one to give him the nourishment he demanded. That was just a dream!
My son and I struggled at the beginning because he had a very shallow latch, and every time he latched on it was extremely painful. Fortunately, I had my mother there in the first few weeks to encourage me and reassure me that he would pick it up, and to give him time to learn to open his mouth. I also had a strong let-down that was causing him to choke when he latched on. I called the local La Leche League chapter to help me, and they explained to me the built-in supply and demand that our breasts have, and that it would balance out on its own. In my sleep-deprived state, I did not want to hear that; I needed a quick fix to get my baby fed so I could get some rest.
My husband was very supportive of me breastfeeding, and understood how important it was for both me and the baby, so he would take the baby at night, and I would get some much-needed rest. But right around three weeks we started hitting our groove, and I finally felt the joy and accomplishment that I dreamed about. I took great pride in knowing that I was built to provide the exact nourishment that my baby needed, that no one else could give him what he needed but me.
Even though I struggled at the beginning and needed the encouragement and support from my mother, husband, and the larger breastfeeding communities. I also drew upon my time with the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team. During the first year of the four-year training block, our head coach called us all into his office and asked us if we could handle working as hard as we possibly could for four years to become Olympians. And at the end, not making it. I originally thought I could not handle it for fear of failure. I had never failed at anything. When it came to sports especially–I always succeeded, so the very thought of not being picked and obtaining my goal was very scary. Over the next few years, fear engulfed me because I thought I might not make it. After childbirth, I found myself slipping into a similar space when I was struggling with my son’s latch in the early weeks. But I did not let the fear overcome me! I had the resolve to say, “I am going to give breastfeeding everything that I have because it’s not only about me, but the foundation for my son’s health depends on me seeing through my pain.”
I did not make the 2012 Olympics, but I learned that I have a choice to choose joy and enjoy the process over being fearful. I will admit that I didn’t enjoy the entire process of breastfeeding, but I was able to snap out of my mini-setbacks and see the bigger picture quicker than before. I feel pure joy when I look into my now 14-month-old son’s eyes and stroke his soft curls. He suckles just as gently as I originally imagined. It didn’t happen on my time, but it happened and that’s all that matters.
For me, breastfeeding is the ultimate way for you to connect with your baby. My milk is more than just nourishment for Judah. When he’s scared, anxious, or just wants some cuddles, he knows where to turn. And the icing on the cake is that my body benefits from him nursing since I’m constantly burning calories. Baby weight?!? I think not! The benefits of breastfeeding far outweigh the minor struggles, and I believe that more Black women would breastfeed if they were exposed to more positive stories. It’s vital that Black women know that they are equipped with everything they need physically to breastfeed, and that there are awesome outlets–like this book–to get emotional support. The more Black women that are talking about breastfeeding–or even just nursing in a Starbucks–allows for breastfeeding to become natural and no longer taboo in our culture. I commend every mother that attempts to breastfeed her baby, whether it is one week or two years, you are amazing and more powerful than you will ever know.
Excerpted from Free To Breastfeed. Voices of Black Mothers with permission.
Angie Forsett is a mother, wife, and all-star athlete. She was a three-time All-American in volleyball at the University of California, Berkeley, and joined the National Team in 2008. She played three professional seasons in Puerto Rico and one in Vienna, Australia. While training for the Olympics in 2012, she became pregnant with her son, Judah. She’s married to a professional football player, Justin Forsett. They met while at Berkeley. She earned a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of California, Berkeley.