Monday, August 10, 2015

and it hits you so much harder than you thought

don't you hate it when you try to write a blog post but can't get yourself to because you're way too emotional about the topic, but then you can't write anything else because this post is completely blocking the way, so you decide to take a few days away from blogland altogether, but then life happens and you end up leaving the country for a month without a computer, and suddenly it's three months later and you still haven't written anything? just me? well, okay then.

bear with me for one more early days of motherhood post because obviously if i don't write this i will never write anything ever again. it has to do with breastfeeding so if that's an issue for you then maybe you should stop reading and go do some soul-searching about why you feel the need to be an insufferable drama bomb.

the absolute hardest thing i have had to do so far as a mother (and yes this is counting up to today, two days shy of cricket turning five months) was not breastfeeding my baby. it is something i don't think i will ever get over ever for as long as i live. i mean, cricket is turning five months old on wednesday. he is happy and healthy and thriving. he is gaining weight and getting tall and just recently learned to roll over completely. (he got stuck on the back to stomach part for a while.) i know that i am being the best mom i can be for him. and yet, just writing the word breastfeeding has a lump forming in my throat and tears pricking behind my eyes. it should not still be this hard for me, but it is.

i don't think i ever wanted anything as badly as i wanted to breastfeed my kid. but i couldn't. because my body is stupid and failed at the one thing that it was made to do. while i was pregnant, i was preparing for this to be hard. i had heard the horror stories of the early days and was ready to face them. i never got that chance. i simply didn't produce enough milk. i started to supplement with formula after the first week. cricket had lost too much weight and was getting lethargic. my husband had to feed him that first bottle in another room, and i spent the whole night sobbing in my bed.

i tried everything to get my supply up. i took fenugreek until i smelled like a maple syrup factory. i drank mother's milk tea and gatorade and water like i was stranded in a desert. i ate oatmeal and flaxseed and brewers yeast all day long. i ate everything that arabs say up your supply as well. i spent days in bed just doing skin-to-skin and nursing. i power-pumped. i tried every single thing that anyone anywhere said had helped them. i tried my best to not stress about it (which is really, really hard let me tell you. there were many, many tears cried.). and sometimes it seemed to be working. sometimes he wouldn't want formula after a feeding. sometimes i was able to pump more than half an ounce. but those times were few and far between. and it seemed like every day my measly supply kept dropping and dropping. eventually, when he was probably at 95% formula anyway, i gave up. and then cried about it for three days. (i'm pretty sure that everyone was pretty relieved at this point because they were all sick of my nonstop crying and thought that stopping might help that.)

i have never tried so hard to do anything before in my life, and failing crushed me. but i had a baby to take care of, so i took a deep breath and locked the feelings away in a chest in the back of my mind to deal with later. and i ostensibly moved on. or, i tried to. my family knew not to even mention the word around me or i would completely break down, but no one else got the memo. why had i never noticed that it was a thing to ask people how they fed their child? because it is apparently a thing. every single person who saw the baby, even people who i was not especially close to and people whose asking was completely awkward, everyone's first question after "how old is he" was "do you breastfeed?" and every single time i said no i felt the walls i built around the chest in the back of my mind start to crack. and i changed the topic quickly or tuned out if a group started talking about it because i knew if i didn't i would dissolve into a crying mess again. and who knows if i would have been able to pull myself out of it a second time? of course they didn't know that they were killing me, rubbing salt into a wound that i was trying to pretend wasn't still raw. to them, it was an innocent question. to me, it was a knife to the heart.

i cannot tell you how relieved i was when i saw everyone there was to see. when i had admitted to all of them as offhandedly as i possibly could, that i had failed. i had failed, i had failed, i had failed. and it got easier and easier to ignore the chest at the back of my mind. some days i forgot about it completely. there was much to distract me.

until the summer. it took me longer than it should have to realize why i was so resentful of my [extended] family this summer. why just seeing my uncles and aunts put me in a bad mood. it was the fact that they all just assumed i was breastfeeding, the way they would hand me my baby and say "you can nurse him in my room if you're more comfortable." once again, a case of people not realizing that their innocent trying to be niceness ruined my day.

i think what really kills me is that deep down, i know that i did not actually try my hardest. i decided not to stick to the super rigid pumping schedule once i switched to formula. i decided not to take any prescription medicines. i decide to give up. because i know myself. and i know that i was one step away from becoming truly obsessive. because that is what i do. i get obsessive to an unhealthy level, and i try to stop myself from reaching that point. so i stopped. i stopped because i wanted to actually enjoy my first baby, and if i didn't, i wouldn't. but that means that i am left with an eternal what if. and that is the worst.

i realize that i had the luxury to be destroyed by this because i was able to get pregnant, to have a healthy baby, things that other people can't. does that make it any easier for me? not really, and that's okay. i've never been one to believe that your pain doesn't hurt because someone else has more. but the fact that i can look at this with some perspective means progress. and while i'm definitely not ready to open the chest just yet, maybe i can let the walls crumble a bit. soon i might unlock it. and while this may not be the healthiest way to deal with it, it's the way i'm dealing with it.

*Soul - Matchbox 20