Breastfeeding ruined my skin

The maternity shoot. The newborn shoot. Both of these are very fashionable. I see them posted on Facebook all the time, and a small part of me feels envious, even resentful. Every time.

I didn’t do either of these. I have hundreds of photos of RaRa, but I feature in almost none of them. I don’t have a single nice photo of myself with my baby.

I had a very good reason for not wanting to do a maternity or a newborn shoot. My skin is a disaster, and I don’t want anyone to see.

This is nothing new. I got my first pimples at the freakishly young age of seven, and it went downhill from there. I was 12 when I was put onto my first course of Roaccutane, and I’ve been on countless courses since. Before I came off the Pill, I was on a chronic low dose of a Roaccutane generic. Nothing else worked.

The first zits soon appeared after I stopped taking contraception, and it only got worse when I fell pregnant. Now my epidermis is faced with a double whammy: not only can I not take Roaccutane (its safety while breastfeeding has not been established), but contraception I’m taking – the mini-pill, which prevents pregnancy while not impacting negatively on breastmilk production – is an acne bomb.

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I hate the way I look most days. I feel ugly, and because I’m now in a category where it’s permissible to look like shit, I’ve let myself go. Before I go to the office, I put on the barest minimum of makeup. I live in leggings.  I keep cover sticks in my car to plaster over the zits, though I know it probably makes them even more obvious. I am pretty sure that people talk behind my back. It’s not normal for a woman in her 40s to have skin like a 16 year old – for all the wrong reasons. (“You should pamper yourself,” my mother-in-law told me when I last visited. I know what this is code for.)

RaRa has almost certainly inherited this particularly shitty problem. I hope that by the time she gets her first pimple, there will be a treatment other than a drug that causes long-term liver damage.

In the mean time, I can have decent skin, or I can breastfeed my baby. But I can’t have both.

A question I have to ask

This is going to sound like a strange question. Maybe it is a strange question. I will ask it anyway.

My question is this: What does it feel like to have a baby when you really wanted a child, and you finally got what you wanted?

It’s a question that occurred to me for the first time this evening, triggered by a FaceTime conversation with my husband, who is in Brussels visiting a friend. Tonight, they are going out to watch Arrival. Overseas travel and going to the movies: both of these are things I used to love and which I have now accepted are no longer within the realm of possibility.

This is what I do know. I know what it feels like to have a baby when you were convinced, for years, that you would never have a child, that for some of that time you were deeply hostile to the idea of having a child, and that if you came around to the idea eventually, it was because you let go of a part of yourself that once felt essential to your identity.

It feels like this: a lovely surprise. It feels like wonder that something that once – to be frank – you found completely alien can be so filled with joy. It feels like astonishment that you can love another being so much, a person who cannot speak or walk, though she can smile (and it’s the smile that gets me every time). It is the thrill that never stops thrilling. If I share so many pictures of my daughter on social media, it is because I am so astonished at how marvelous she is.

RaRa is the maybe who became the definitely. She’s the possibility, the let’s-see-what-happens-if made flesh. But she is not the result of hoping, or wanting, or trying.

Which brings me back to my question. For those women who wanted a baby, and then had a baby, what does it feel like? Does it make the complete change of lifestyle less of an adjustment? The inevitable sacrifices easier to bear?

RaRa was never part of my plans. Now my entire reason for being centres around saving up for school fees. Things I wanted to do are now very unlikely. And tonight – for once – I’m sad about it. Or to put it more accurately: tonight, I’m being honest with myself about how I’m sad about it.

What does it feel like? I want to know.