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April 22, 2022

Reflections on the Intersection of Art, Lactation Support, and Vibrators

This essay about the importance of lactation support was written by Lifecycle client, Jessica. You can also catch her this summer at Hedgerow Theater as Catherine, another new mom navigating the trials of the fourth trimester. 

And then baby latches and you are one. Parent and baby. Each fully nourished by the other. So easy. Right?

Not for me.

Not for the character that I am playing this June at Hedgerow Theater. And not for the playwright, Sarah Ruhl. Feeding your baby is a journey that can feel desperately lonely unless you find support.

In Sarah’s play IN THE NEXT ROOM, OR THE VIBRATOR PLAY (more on that sensational title later), the doctor’s wife, Catherine (whom I have the pleasure of playing), struggles to feed her baby and is coerced into hiring a wet nurse.

If only Lifecycle and their wonderful Lactation Support Groups were there to guide her process!

And it is a process.

Whether you choose to use formula, your own milk, or some combination of both, it is a whirlwind of a time as you anxiously redefine your position in the world. Questions might pound through your sleep deprived mind:

“Is the baby getting enough milk? Am I still producing colostrum? WHY IS THIS SO PAINFUL? Which formula was recalled? Will I have enough formula to get through the week?”

It was my tumultuous experience with breastfeeding that cemented my relationship with Lifecycle. A few days after my first child was born, my milk still had not come in. My baby was dropping weight. It was a nightmare of a time. I felt like a failure and cried puddles of tears (why were my eyes producing, while my breasts did not!?).

Patty [Siegrist, IBCLC], the best guide on getting a nipple into the mouth of an infant, demonstrated a proper latch and helped me learn a plethora of new techniques to help my milk come in. I was able to breastfeed my little girl for one year and I marvel at the strength it took to continue while sustaining blebs, chapped nipples, and sleepless nights.

“Milk is comfort…” my character utters in disappointment in THE VIBRATOR PLAY. Her struggles echo my own. Yes, this play is about vibrators and the dawn of electricity. And it is also about how we as new parents can feel invisible and unenlightened, and unfit for the job.

I found a way to be seen with my second daughter among the comfort of a Zoom Lactation Support Group. My milk was plentiful, but I felt so alone and overwhelmed by the pandemic. What a relief it was to see other parents attempt to breastfeed/chestfeed while navigating the stress of the world in the welcoming Zoom room.

Our playwright, Sarah, has this to say about a parent’s journey with their newborn:

“I think postpartum issues are so hard to talk about because there is very little language for those blurry times, and I think there’s a stigma, not only an external one, but an internal stigma, too – a deep shame. The thinking goes something like: if you’re depressed after having children, it means something about your ability to mother or love, when in fact it has nothing to do with your love, and everything to do with hormones and a lack of sleep.”

I hope you consider joining a Lactation Support Group at Lifecycle and find a way to be seen, and I invite you to giggle, commiserate, and fall in love with the new parent’s journey this June at Hedgerow.

SAVE THE DATE: Join Lifecycle at a special matinee showing of In the Next Room: OR The Vibrator Play on June 5th. Following the play, we will be hosting a panel discussion and are looking forward to discussing breastfeeding/chestfeeding, the fourth trimester, and the joys and challenges of parenthood with you. More details to come!

Photo credit: Rachel Utain-Evans Photography