Saturday, December 4, 2010

On breastfeeding

I hadn't intended to write tonight. In fact, I already have my Christmas cards pulled out and was about to begin working on them when I decided to take a few minutes to catch up on a few blogs. I just read this on Yolande Clark's blog and I suddenly feel like sharing my story about breastfeeding Baby Girl.

To date, I haven't mentioned any of this here. It's a very painful topic for me. Anyone who knows me, or has been reading my blog for any amount of time knows that I see breastfeeding as a black and white issue.

With Baby Boy, I tried pumping a couple of times but he refused to take a bottle. As XH put it, "It was like the bottle offended him." Rightfully so. As a result, BB and I were inseparable for his first year of life. When I returned to work at the one year mark, we continued nursing in the evenings and over night.

I/we decided that I/we wanted to have our babies close together. After several months of trying to conceive without success, I went to the LLL website to see if there was anything I could do to make my reproductive cycle begin again. I learned there that overnight nursing is one of the things that can prevent your cycle from returning, so at 14 months I weaned BB during the overnight period as well, and we were just nursing in the evening at this point. I continued to have negative tests, so at 15 months I decided to wean him entirely. It was a difficult decision, but I recall our last few nursing sessions were a bit of a bust anyway. He'd latch on, then pull off with dramatic effect, run around the room giggling, and then would repeat the process. He and I breastfed for the last time on a Thursday, and on Saturday I had my positive test. I was five weeks pregnant - giving up the overnight nursings did the trick.

Fast forward almost eight months to BG's arrival. Life was no longer the same. My belief that breastfeeding is the only option for my darling baby girl still held true. And for over seven months I was there without question. There were a few occasions early on where I did pump and had either my mother or XH bottle feed her, but she only accepted the bottle once or twice. Aside from those few attempts, I have been here for her. 24/7.

I have to say, doing it this time around has been easier yet harder. BG's crib has been next to my bed, just like BB's was; however, BG actually sleeps in bed with me. BB didn't get to do that because the bed was cramped and I was worried that XH might roll over on to him and not realize it because he had too much to drink. (Sorry, XH. I know you're reading this.) Having the bed all to ourselves has been great for BG and me. I haven't had to worry about whether we're keeping someone up who has to be able to function for work the next day. If I get uncomfortable, I can switch to the other side of the bed. All this has made night time nursing much easier.

But around a month ago, I started questioning my ability to continue. Sure, some things have been easier this time around. Other things though, not so much. Breastfeeding without the support of a partner isn't easy. There is no relief. I'm surrounded by people who say, "Go ahead and give her a bottle. You deserve some freedom." "I gave you formula and you turned out okay." (Actually, no I didn't. I was plagued with allergies and asthma as a child and into my early adult life.) "Lots of babies get formula and they grow up to be healthy."

I've been feeling caged and trapped. There is no one that I can truly lean on (or that I'm comfortable leaning on in that way.) No one who loves me in that supportive way. (Ironic that I've phrased it that way, since apparently XH didn't love me when BB was an infant... but even so, he was here.) There seems to be no one on the sidelines cheering me on in a way that is meaningful to me. (Here come the tears.) I love BG so much, and in even considering supplementing her with formula so I can "get out of the house" makes me feel like a terrible mother. I've judged other mothers for less. I've judged them harshly. If there's one thing I've learned over all of my experiences of the past year, I really need to turn off that judging voice inside of my head. Until I've walked in someone else's shoes, I have no right to judge them or their decisions.

No, I haven't broken down and bought formula... yet. I've looked at it and marveled at the cost. I've tried pumping a few times to see if maybe I could stock-pile some milk for times that I "need" to escape (saying need here sounds so effing selfish) but I get next to nothing when I pump. There are too many distractions and I'm too stressed out over it all... and that ridiculous machine pulling and tugging at my breasts can't replicate BG's natural suckling rhythm.

Until now, breastfeeding has always seemed so simple, effortless, and natural...

I am failing my beautiful baby girl. As her mother, the person who is supposed to be her biggest champion, I feel like I am all ready letting her down. For what? My reasons are not noble. I want to be able to go out on dates and not be constantly checking my watch to see if it might be close to BG's next feeding. I expect that people who have never experienced this situation are probably thinking, "Why can't she just wait a few more months?! Before she knows it her baby will be older and will no longer be nursing." But over the past year of trying to do the right things for everyone in my life, I feel as if I'm becoming a martyr.... I've worked so hard to keep a good relationship with my ex-inlaws, to make this situation with XH work, to show H how a real friend acts while wishing for so much more than just friendship with him, to keep my temper in check with my parents when there are times that I just want to blow up at them, all the while being loving and nurturing to BB and BG. It's all starting to feel like it's too much for me to handle. Something has to give because I feel like the flame within me is starting to flicker.

I feel selfish, and at the moment, I feel unworthy of the love beneath this roof. I realize that this statement isn't true... it's just how I feel right now. I'm embarrassed about all of this.


Independent Chick said...

NEVER be embarrassed to express your feelings, especially here in your own forum! And NEVER feel guilty. I have to say, you are by far the best, most selfless, giving, nurturing, caring Mother I know. You are carrying the weight of everything on your shoulders. You should never feel guilty for wanting to do some things for yourself. A happy, healthy Mom makes for happy, healthy babies. I completely understand where you are coming from and I can never tell you how to feel but I can ask you to please not beat yourself up over this. You are amazing cuddles!!! XO

ML said...

Oh my goodness girlie! Big hugs...I know they won't help but just know that I am sending them to you.

I understand the feeling. And if I remember correctly, YOU were my biggest fan when things were rough with C. I always knew that I could count on you to bolster my spirits when I thought that breastfeeding was sucking the life out of me! So here I am wishing I was closer so that I could help you...big huge hugs and a listening ear anytime!

Whatever choice you make, I know that you are making with love for those beautiful babies of yours. I second the healthy happy mum makes for healthy happy babies so I guess what I am trying to say is stop beating yourself up because you are doing the very best that you can!


Natalie said...

Oouf...this post tugged at my heart. I have been in this very place, although earlier into Felix's life than into BG's.

All I can say is that whatever choice you make IS the right choice. If you choose to continue, it's the right thing to do. If you choose to start to supplement, it's also the right thing to do.

It sounds trite, and cliche, but BB and BG benefit greatly from having a Mom who also takes care of herself. Choosing to supplement, or switch for formula, does not make you any less of a mother or any worse of a mother. It makes you a normal person, who has to take care of herself. Frankly, in knowing the very little I do about surprises me that you haven't gotten to this crossroads earlier. You are ROCKING the parenting....and it is clear, from observing you with BG, that she is loved and adored.

I'm sorry this is all so hard for you. I wish there was a way that I could help out more...or help you feel more supported during those tough times.

Please know that I am here. I am so glad we got to meet, I suspect it's the beginning of a good friendship.


cuddles said...

Thanks, ladies. I wasn't quite expecting such an outpouring of support from this post. It's taken me a bit to respond because I'm not quite sure what to say beyond a simple "thank you". You have no idea how much your notes have touched me.

Independent Chick - I don't feel like I'm the best mother... as I confessed to Natalie on the weekend, I yell far more than I am comfortable with... and then I realize, "OMG, I'm yelling at a 2 year old." Definitely a fail on my part.

ML - While you were nursing C, wasn't D in Afghanistan? It hadn't occurred to me until you commented on this post. I'm still proud of how you ran with the breastfeeding with C. You went out of your way to get the answers you needed when things got tough, and stood your ground with your doc when you needed to. So many people would have given up at that point.

Natalie - I'd love to hear your story of being in the same place the next time we get together... and more importantly how you handled it.

So glad the three of you are on team cuddles! ;o) XO

yolande clark said...

Cuddles--I totally understand what you're going through, and the fact that your little girl has had a nursling relationship with you for over six months is a wonderful foundation of attachment, and nutrition. Do what you can. Being a single mum is *so hard*, especially with tiny ones. I agree entirely with the previous comments here: your kids need a happy mum. There are ideals, and then there is real life. I get it, completely. Considering that your little girl is six months or so, you might even be able to bypass the formula/bottle thing and just go for food pretty any case, you're doing a great job.

cuddles said...

Thanks, Yolande. It means a lot to me to hear from you... I seem to have put you up on a "mothering pedestal". I have so much respect for your way of life and parenting style. During the past month I've thought several times, "Yolande wouldn't be considering formula if she found herself in this position." When you posted about breastfeeding, I was suddenly compelled to try to sort out my thoughts on the issue (via my blog post.) I think taking the opportunity to do that has cemented in my head that I will continue to breastfeed without supplementing formula until she is 12 months. Ideally it would be longer, but I know that when I have to return to work it will be less feasible. Twelve months is better than the eight and a half months we're currently at, and maybe we'll find a way to continue on after that point even.
Thanks again for the note and the encouragement.