My kid sucks. The bottle, that is.
Hah. Just kidding!
She is here, and she is everything. My life has been completely transformed on a very basic, fundamental level. I have so many stories to tell, so many things that are fun, and sad, and interesting, and disgusting, and transformative.
But there's one story that I need to share with you right now. Because it's important.
My kid doesn't eat from my boobs. She will only eat from a bottle. This wasn't the plan, but I have exclusively pumped breastmilk for her since she was 4 days old.
And I am totally OK with that.
It seems that many people feel I shouldn't be OK with that. "Do you need help getting her back on the boob?" they say. "Pumping sucks!" they say.
And I instantly feel defensive. Guilty. I know I should be trying to get her back on, I think. God, she should be eating from the breast, I think.
And then I give my head a shake.
She's happy. I'm happy. Why screw with it?
This whole little adventure started in the hospital when my baby was starving. She was a happy baby for the first two days, but by day 3 she was inconsolable. As new parents, we had no idea what was going on. Go know she had lost 14% of her body weight (mind you, I'd been on IV fluids before my c-section, so that number was probably skewed a bit) and wasn't getting anything from my breasts anymore as she had drained my colostrum and my milk hadn't come in. She was hungry and miserable. I had pumped an ounce or so of colostrum and gave it to her already, but subsequent pumpings yielded mere drops. The nurse pressed the formula. However, instead of giving me all kinds of options that would have gotten her fed and kept her on the breast such as a lactaid or finger feeding, she shoved a bottle of formula in my hand - another story entirely - and I cried as I gave it to my hungry daughter, brokenhearted that my body had seemed to fail me - and her - yet again. Still, she ate. And then she slept, content with her full belly, and I held her and watched her sleep, happy with a belly full of food I didn't produce, my emotions raging.
From that point on, she refused the breast. She was a hungry baby and the boob just wasn't fast enough. I'd pull her on to latch, and she would scream, flail, swing her tiny arms, her mouth open and wailing around my nipples. She was crying and I was crying and it really, really sucked. Really.
So I turned to the pump. Within a day, my milk arrived and I was outproducing what she ate by at least a freezer bag a day. She ate happily from the bottle, she gained weight. And eventually I just stopped the battle to get her back on the boob. Because for us? This was the better alternative, the better alternative by a thousand miles.
I'm not dissing breastfeeding. But I'm also not dismissing the fact that my child hated the breast, and I hated trying to get her on it when she so obviously was miserable with it. Then I think of the stories, so many stories, of cracked and bleeding and blistered nipples, of bad latches, of not being able to leave the baby at any time, of pain and frustration. I wonder if it's just sour grapes, that I'm grateful I didn't have to go through all that. Then the guilt sneaks in. Am I lazy? Is she missing out on something vital, something she needs? Am I not strong enough? Am I just a chicken for not wanting to face the hard parts? Do I need to earn my stripes, or something?
But then? The relief. My child is eating, and I'm providing the food. What's the difference?
What I do certainly isn't easy. I have to find time, 20 minutes of time 4, 5, 6 times a day where I can have my hands to myself to pump. Not so easy with a newborn. I have to find time to wash and fill bottles. Both things that women who have babies who will eat from the boob don't have to do. In a way, I have the worst of both worlds: I have to wash the bottles like formula feeders, but I have to drain the boobs like breastfeeders. Drag.
And yet, there are undeniable benefits to this, the biggest one being I have remarkable freedom. I can put my hungry baby on my husband's lap and know that she's going to be fed - and not just fed, but fed the good stuff, straight from me, her mother. And then? I can go take a shower, like a real human being. Or go back and get a few hours of precious sleep so that my brain starts to function properly again. The value of that is not to be underestimated, and is in fact probably the only reason I am not sunk into a vat of postpartum depression today.
Still, there's something in the back of my mind that sounds like Failure. Like guilt. I'm not doing it right. I had every intention of breastfeeding. The decision to do this came with a great deal of emotional turmoil. Why is she rejecting me? Is there something wrong with me emotionally, physically? This is supposed to be easy! Am I scared of the fight, the sore nipples, the long hours? Am I chickening out? Whenever I'm out in public and I feed her with a bottle, I wonder if other people are judging me. I tried! I want to say. This is breastmilk in this bottle! I want to point out.
Then I wonder why I care. She's fed. From the boob, so she's getting the antibodies and the cells and the stuff she's biologically meant to get and that I'm biologically meant to give her. She's happy, unbelievably happy, a remarkably easy baby.
And isn't that the point?
So, this is official notice: I'm giving up on the guilt. I did what I had to to feed my kid, and frankly, it's all worked out rather well in my opinion. And I'm going to stop feeling bad for feeling good about it.