I am not breastfeeding. I did not, and I will not.
There, I said it. Hold your fire. I’m sure there are women (and probably some men) out there gasping and shaking their heads. You know what – I don’t care.
This is the first time I have said those four words with such finality. It’s usually said quickly, eyes down, flinching under the weight of judgment.
As Pumpkin approaches her first birthday, happy and healthy, I have finally reached the point where I am okay with our decision and I don’t owe anyone an explanation for that.
Actually, let me back up. My first statement is not entirely true. I did breastfeed. For five weeks. I tried to breastfeed anyway. Pumpkin and I spent those first five weeks crying and staring at each other, bleary-eyed and confused. She was constantly hungry. I was constantly wondering if she was getting any nourishment at all. Hubby just sat by helplessly watching the two loves of his life get increasingly weaker, more miserable, and more hopeless.
But I wouldn’t give up. I had read all of the information out there from the AAP, the La Leche breastfeeding mother Nazis, and all the other internet gurus with the requisite qualifications to post on an anonymous blog. I was convinced that I was a terrible, selfish, unloving wench completely undeserving of a child if I did not sacrifice everything to breastfeed for at least the first year (if not two). I knew, somehow, that I was being judged as a mother just for the mere fact that I had googled the phrase “switching the formula.”
Eventually we surrendered. The way Pumpkin voraciously attacked the first formula bottle I offered and then proceeded to double her birth weight almost overnight, I knew that she was going to be okay. But was I?
For the last 50 or so weeks I have secretly beat myself up over this decision. I beat myself up despite the fact that I may actually have the healthiest and the happiest baby on Earth. This isn’t just my biased assessment – daycare workers, doctors, other family members and even strangers confirm this for me on an almost daily basis.
Although she is healthy and happy, she does still get ear infections, and lots of them. We have even had to get tubes and she still gets infections. In my obsessive google-polling of every idiot with a WiFi connection, I have “heard” that I could have prevented this suffering by breastfeeding. So the self-beatings continued. If there was any way I could have tried again, I probably would have, even though it probably still wouldn’t have been the right decision for us. Unfortunately, that well had run dry many weeks ago. I was all but convinced that I actually was that terrible selfish person that the boob-pushing moms thought I was.
But now, as we prepare to celebrate one year together, Pumpkin and I are both standing up for ourselves. Her literally, as she is just learning to walk; and me, figuratively, as I know I am not a bad or selfish mother and I also know that our decision was the right one for us. While I won’t presume to love my child more than any other mother, I will say that I absolutely love her as much as any other mother, regardless of whether they are human milk machines or not. I love her unconditionally, endlessly, and fiercely. I would spare no expense and would give any part of myself for her health and happiness. For us, that part of me just wasn’t providing those things for her.
And I didn’t quit breastfeeding for selfish reasons. I didn’t do it so I could sip martinis or stay out (either at clubs or in the land of nod) all night. I was worried sick about her milk intake. Some of that was probably crazy-first-time-mommy-post-partum-sleep-deprived freaking, but it was freaking nonetheless and it was taking away from the joys of those first few weeks together. I wanted to breastfeed because people told me I should. She just wanted to be fed and loved. At that time in our lives, those two desires were just incompatible and she won. Our house became a different place with the very first sip from the bottle and I won’t apologize for that and I do not regret it.
None of this is not to say that if we have another baby in the future we won’t try again and, maybe, future baby and I will have a different take on the whole thing. But for me and my Pumpkin, it just wasn’t right and I refuse to spend any more time regretting it or blaming myself for the inevitable ails of her childhood. Either way, Pumpkin is never going to remember where her first milk came from, but she will always know that she is loved without question and she will never want for anything I can provide her.
And besides, it’s Hubby who had ear infections as a child so, obviously that is his fault.