Monday, June 3, 2013

Milk and myths

I had a moment this morning, as I walked defeated, into the kitchen, to show Papa my morning's milk production. I have been fighting off the "less than" feeling for months. 9.5 months to be exact.

I pumped the night before at 9p and then slept nine hours and then thought I felt some intense let down in the morning (I've been eating a LOT of lactation cookies, but alas, I am finally grasping that they aren't helping) so I was eager to see the results. It was pitiful. In fact, I became pitiful just looking at it. I have these huge milk containers that hold 6 oz of pumped milk, and I feel horrible using them now because my milk no longer even covers the bottom of the bottles. It's hard not to feel inadequate. I'm slowly drying up and I will likely not make it to one year of breastfeeding (I do have milk donations, though, for which I am grateful).

I have ranted before, to my various moms groups, that I feel angry and resentful that just because I am categorically not doing all the granola-type things I aspired to when I was pregnant, (or worse, even when I was not pregnant), that I am 1) not a natural mama 2) that I am uneducated 3) that I am lazy/giving up easily 4) not doing what is best for my child.

There are some crazy myths and a whole steamboat of judgments around the way parents do things. More than anything, it really degrades our ability to support each other and that degradation, in my far from humble opinion, leads to violence, isolation, suicide, depression, poor health, and overall shitty lives. The fact that doing or not doing something (abuse of any kind, violence, etc. are not the things I am talking about) MEANS something (ie, if you do not do X, it MEANS you don't care...), is damaging.

First, an apology. To all the parents I secretly (or not so secretly) judged, I am more sorry than I can properly express to you. There are specific people I am talking about, but I'm also talking to the complete strangers that I interacted with or just saw in supermarkets, on buses, in museums, on airplanes. I did not then, and do not now, have all of the answers.
I should've hugged you. I should've at least touched your shoulder, knowingly (I wish it wouldn't have seemed creepy). I should've high-fived you. I should've thought, "Wow, they are doing the best they can AND they are taking their kids to the zoo---what ROCKSTARS!" I should've simply said, "You're doing a great job. It looks like your kid really loves/trusts/respects you."

Second, I am tired of propagating the myths.There is no one (right) way to do this parenting thing. There is not even one natural way to do this. That's because humans, living all over the world, do different things. Period.

We don't get asked in our infant wellness checkups if we love our kids and how much we love them. We are not asked what our efforts are, we are just asked if we put in any effort. We aren't even asked if we can assess their mental well-being and if they are happy, connected, etc. And even kids who aren't happy or connected aren't always worse off. It's not really a doctor's job to ask you this or pay attention to this (well, not exactly anyway).

So I am left to read books, defend opinions and experiences, cry alone in my therapist's office, weep softly into my pillow at night, put on a happy face, keep "giving it a shot," listen to the reassurance of my husband, and keep a lot of things to myself until someone else admits it first.

Time and again I am reminded, by lovely, supportive people, that my child is happy, healthy, bonded to me, social, and developing normally. And that he loves me pretty intensely. It's true. I would be insane if I tried to deny it. The smile on his face when I walk into a room could care less whether I was a milky machine or formula-making machine. He never throws the bottle in disgust. He never cries at my boobs. When we put his crib in the room next door, he didn't flip out. When I leave for work he doesn't fall apart. None of those things have ever happened. We worked really hard to make transitions bearable. When K giggles because of something absolutely ridiculous that I did, I forget to add that to my list of "Why I Rock Parenting." Such a shame, too. To instigate a giggle like K's is surely an accomplishment (I'm debating adding it to my lifetime achievements). He doesn't withhold the giggle because I produce less than an ounce of milk daily and we can't really breastfeed normally anymore. I must give him more credit than that.

My baby is not an innocent bystander. As I have always said, he communicates very clearly what he needs and wants. And I, one of his capable parents, pretty much take care of his needs pretty damn well, I must admit. In fact, I need to give myself more credit. I know the pattern of his crying. I know how long is too long, I know how much is too much food, I even know when things are the wrong flavor, temperature and consistency. I know when it's time to head outside and when it's time to head home. I know cuddle positions and I know when it's good to let him be in his bed quietly playing without the likes of me barging in to start the day. I know how to redirect, distract, comfort, kiss, and tickle my child to show him that I am paying attention and that his welfare is pretty much the top of my list.

Thanks for letting me get that all out. Milk doesn't equal love. That's silly. I'm sad that I kinda felt that it did. Just like with my c-section, I don't want to start telling a story that isn't true. I HAVE fought long and hard to provide milk to my kid. I've shamelessly asked others and accepted their donations. I am not entirely giving up (I have a few more things I want to try), and when I stop, I won't call it giving up anyway.

My "good enough" is amazing. My child will know that when I have let go, it's after all the appropriate options have been tried. This is something I cannot find in a book, there is no chart for it, no research, and no drug to boost my efforts. Since the beginning of pregnancy, I have done everything I could...maybe that's what I should've called the blog...

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