I breastfed Olivia for exactly 16 weeks, to the DAY. Sixteen of the hardest weeks ever, even when things were going “well.” Olivia was never a champion nurser, but after she regained her birth weight in record time, I thought I was on the path to breastfeeding success. After all, no one told me it would be easy to breastfeed, but they DID tell me that my body would produce enough, and that both Olivia and I would figure it out, and then we would gaze lovingly at each other. But a week after regaining her birth weight, she essentially stopped gaining. I’d just started to relax about my ability to KEEP MY CHILD ALIVE, and there it was, proof on the scale that I wasn’t really doing even that.
I’ll spare you the details, but they involve two lactation consultants, weekly weight checks, prescription medications, formula, bottles, and an ocean of tears. AN OCEAN. After all the careful planning of my birth plan going spectacularly sideways, I thought I was OWED this thing- to breastfeed easily and to have it be natural and comfortable and the bonding experience the books say that it is.
But life doesn’t work that way, and my desire to breastfeed made me push and push and push, hoping it would work itself out eventually. That one day, if I was patient and persistent enough, Olivia would feed calmly and happily, instead of, last week, start screaming at my boob in what I can only describe as FEAR. With a side order of pain. Bless her tiny heart, she kept trying to latch on. She’d latch, and suck for a few seconds, and then pull away, her brow furrowed and the cries frantic. And I’d switch sides, and hold her head, and then finally, FINALLY, HOW COULD I POSSIBLY BE THIS STUPID, it dawned on me that I loved this little thing so much that my personal breastfeeding agenda wasn’t worth letting her GO HUNGRY.
And so I decided to stop breastfeeding her. I can put breast milk in a bottle, and when I run out of that, I can put formula in a bottle like millions of other moms the world over, and it certainly won’t be looked down upon as badly as it would if I actually STARVED my little girl.
So for the past two days I’ve been bottle feeding her what milk I can pump and formula for the other feedings. And of course, OF COURSE, it’s been a completely different experience that breastfeeding. I don’t mean that in the most obvious way, I mean that now we DO gaze lovingly at each other. She shakes in anticipation of the bottle, and she smiles a giant milky grin at me when she’s done. She’s happy for me to feed her. HAPPY. She motherfucking LAUGHED for the first time two days ago, and last night she slept through the night, like a full contented baby.
I keep thinking the universe is having some sort of giant laugh at my expense- I thought I could DESIRE a good breastfeeding experience into existence, and through sheer WILL communicate that with my tiny newborn. And the universe is telling me I’m a complete IDIOT, but then rewarding me with the best parts of early motherhood for FINALLY getting with the program.
So there you have it. Absolutely NOTHING about this motherhood thing has gone the way I wanted it to, except the part where there’s a little girl who follows the sound of my voice with her eyes.
Turns out I didn’t like breastfeeding that much ANYWAYS.