I don’t think anyone is under the impression that motherhood is glamourous. I was not. But I did think it would be sweet and beautiful and precious. And then I leaked breast milk all over my sons forehead while changing his poopy diaper, wandering around his room with my breast feeding pillow strapped to my waist like a life preserver, and I fully understood how ugly and raw motherhood can be.
Being a mom has left me feeling the most exposed I have ever felt both literally and figuratively. Trust me, if my neighbors didn’t see me topless that first month of Ben’s life I will eat the rest of Ben’s rice cereal (which is gross, have you smelled that stuff???). By the time I chose to stopbreast feeding, I would be walking around our apartment topless for extended periods of time because it was so much easier than actually putting my shirt back on, only to leak all over it an hour later.
But motherhood is so much more than the actual physical exposure you suffer.
Motherhood makes you vulnerable like never before. I am completely responsible for this little creature and the truth is I have never felt more aware and paranoid of everything around me. My husband jokingly said that I have turned into a crazy woman when it comes to defending my son and I can’t say I disagree. I have been the only person who has cared for him from the minute I knew he existed (apologies to Ben for the two weekends I didn’t know he existed yet, my bad on the wine festival). But this means I have spent every waking minute, and several not-so-waking minutes thinking about how everything I do affects my son. There is not a step I have taken, food I have eaten or drink I have had that hasn’t given me pause to think “how will this impact Ben”. This starts in the womb and never goes away. I cannot help it. I am sure this feeling will fade, but for now it is all encompassing and makes a mom susceptible to everyone’s feedback, feelings and thoughts.
So when I made the difficult decision to stop breast feeding, I thought long and hard about how this would impact Ben. My relationship with this little creature, that was just getting started, was going to change. Our precious, but high stress (at least for me) time of our own would come to an end. Breast feeding had turned into a circus, with me having called three lactation consultants, gone to two separate lactation consultant appoinments, and my son now wanting to eat for 2 hours at a time, it was not turning out to be the roaring success I anticipated. As my friend Ryann pointed out, he isn’t a necklace and I can’t wear him around like an accessory. The stress and mental wear and tear it took on me was overwhelming. And the guilt about not “getting it right” was absolutely devestating. Please don’t misunderstand; I believe that a fed baby is a happy and healthy baby, however it happens, but I was under the impression that breast feeding would be easy for me. It wasn’t. I thought it would be a bonding time that brought Ben and I closer. It didn’t. I thought I would love those moments of quiet at 2am and 4am and 6am and 8am etc. etc. I didn’t. I was exhausted, and stressed, and suffering from Postpartum and scared my baby wasn’t gaining enough weight and it all rested on me.
So my husband and I made the decision that after a month, I would stop breast feeding and we would switch to formula. And you know what, after a little fussing with his bottles, discovering which formula was best, and getting some more sleep now that my husband could take a feeding or two, it was, without a doubt, the best personal decision for me and eventually for my son.
Because here is the thing. A mom, or a dad for that matter, that is getting more sleep, has a little less to stress about, and that can take comfort in knowing, without a doubt, that their baby is eating what they should, is a happier parent.
The first months of Ben’s life have been a wonderful, stressful, beautiful, joyful, tear-filled, scary, ride. My husband and I spend our days trying to keep up with his ever changing life and personality and we love the journey we are on with him, but there are times when it is ok to say that it is hard. I need to take a breath. Or maybe I will nap right here on the kitchen table.
But here is what I know in my heart, as long as my little boy grows up knowing that he is loved, safe, secure, and has the confidence to go for what he wants in life, I will know we have done all that we can as parents and that is perfectly ok.