Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The (Emotional) Cost of Formula

I had planned to breastfeed. I read the books, investigated the scary looking pump, and bought nursing bras. When it turned out that I was unable to produce anywhere near enough milk to feed Chloe, I was devastated... which honestly surprised me as there was a good chance (due to a past medical situation) that I wouldn't be able to exclusively breastfeed. So, I knew this was a distinct possibity and had spent some time prepping myself for it. But, I had to constantly remind myself that giving her formula does not make me a bad mother. I took pills for a month to try to up my prolactin levels and for 6 long weeks, I pumped anywhere from 4-8 times a day (I was slacking toward the end there) and gave her any little bit that I had. Deciding to stop pumping my miniscule amount of milk was another tough internal battle.

Now, Chloe is fed extensively on formula and mostly it's fine... well, it's entirely fine with her - she's well-fed and very happy. I'm the one that's mostly fine... I'm happy that my muppet is happy and I won't lie - there's a lot of convenience associated with using formula. But, every time I whip out a bottle in public, I feel myself start to get defensive... regardless of whether or not someone says something to me or not. When someone asks me if I am breastfeeding, I always feel like I need to tell them my whole story rather than simply saying "No." And then I guiltily remember that before being in this boat, I have judged (silently, to myself) other mothers for their choices.

It's like the day care vs. nanny vs. stay at home mom debate. Everyone is completely convinced that their side of the debate is the only right one and that those that go an opposite way are some how not trying hard enough... which is bull. We're all trying hard enough.

I think all of this is born out of the fact that we are actually spending most of the time judging ourselves. It's like moms have to lash out against someone doing it differently so they don't have the time to question whether or not they're the ones screwing it up.

So, I was thinking this morning how cool it would be if we all decided that we would get off this merry-go-round and stop judging ourselves and each other.

And then another thought occurred to me: we should take a lesson from the Daddies because I don't think men do this... to themselves or to each other.

I remember very clearly the moment I realized I was producing almost no milk and I held off on crying until Diane left. Ed looked at me and he said "What's wrong? I don't understand - this is all ok - we now know how to feed her! We can move forward with confidence."

What it comes down to is this: Ed doesn't understand why we should get upset that things didn't go as planned because as it turns out, we have a daughter who is beautiful and healthy and happy and well-nourished. And I've decided he's right.


Anonymous said...

Very well said. And I think you tried and it didn't work out for you. That's it. You tried. It didn't work out for you. You can't get anything else out of that transaction. There's nothing else to mine their, no other hidden, deep significance or meaning that you have to keep picking away at, keep looking for. You tried. It didn't work out for you. That's what you should tell the people if they ask. And then smile. You're right--everyone is trying hard enough for those things when they try hard at all. It's hard enough when you're really trying. The result doesn't matter, ultimately, because we can't control that. It's hard to get our minds around that, but life is in the trying, not in the result. Because we can't control that as much we think or want to. We can only control how much we try.

My therapy lady tells me to say to myself: It's OK to be imperfect and no one is going to punish me for it.

I don't think a human body is perfect or imperfect, so the example may not totally fit, but I think it's helpful to see the issue that way. No one is going to punish you for it and you shouldn't either.

Heather and Ed and Chloe said...

Thank you - I think you are right. The new phrase that Ed and I use for things is "it just wasn't a fit." That's all.

What I find interesting about this particular issue, though, is that it's like an onion. Just when I think I'm totally fine with it, I find another layer.

But, I have to say that now she's a bit older, it's easier. Now, she can smile at me and I know she's happy and that all is well.