Wednesday, April 16, 2014

My biggest critic: Me

When it comes to anything baby, parents face pressure from every direction.
I didn't realize until this third time home with a newborn just how much of of this second-guessing and criticism I pile on myself. I have supportive family and friends surrounding me, texting and emailing, dropping off food and gifts for Charlie... and still I feel at times like I'm all alone in this and failing.
In my head I know it's the normal baby blues mixed with sleep deprivation, but I have a hard time explaining that to my heart. More than once this past month Brian has watched me dissolve into tears over just about nothing (even though it felt to me like everything was falling apart).
This is something I don't think new moms talk about it enough. When well-wishers ask how things are going they expect the canned replies and would probably run the other direction if I launched into a weepy tale about sleepless nights or the constant anxiety that I'm not doing enough for my baby or his big sisters.
With each passing day I feel the hormones leveling out and Charlie falling into the early inklings of a routine (which gives me hope for a steadier supply of sleep somewhere in the future). But I've had some low points in these early weeks and had to remind myself that it's OK.
During this pregnancy I promised myself (and Brian) that my motto with Charlie would be "I will not make myself crazy." Beyond the normal new mom stuff, we talked about this because of the roller coaster I've had with low supply issues and breastfeeding.
(The cause stems back to a surgery I had at 18, and while I knew about the risks of interference with breastfeeding back then I didn't have babies in the forefront of my mind. Ten years later as I was struggling to feed my baby and failing to see her gain weight, I put a whole lot of blame on myself. I battled these crazy feelings of inadequacy as a mom when Brian and I had to supplement formula into Ellie's diet. When Katie was born I adopted a moderately insane regimen of nursing and pumping round the clock, added herbal supplements and even a prescription medication into the mix... and still wound up needing to supplement. More on that here.)
With Charlie, I've mostly stuck to my vow to be realistic in my expectations for feeding. He started off as a strong nurser but has gotten frustrated in recent weeks when he wakes up super hungry and I'm not full enough to give him all he needs, or get it to him fast enough. So I've worked out a combo of nursing and pumping and supplementing. It's helping Charlie get about as much breast milk from me as he can. (When I pumped with Katie I ultimately realized I could pump every hour or two and get an ounce each time or pump every 3-4 hours and get two ounces at a time. So I'm pumping 4-5 times a day instead of the 8 times I did with Katie, we're nursing when Charlie will allow it and we're using formula, too.
It's fine. Really it is. I know that I've tried everything in my power to build supply, and I know there's more to being a good mom than solely breastfeeding.
It's another case where my brain knows that Charlie is doing great and will be absolutely fine with what we're giving him. But this silly part of me still feels like a failure. I think there's something primal in new moms that makes us feel like we have to give our babies anything (and everything) they need. When I can't do that, when I have to mix up a bottle instead of just nursing him, I get a knot in my stomach. Does it sound crazy to want to be the only thing Charlie needs for sustenance (just like I was for the 40 weeks he spent inside me)?
And yet, I know other moms out there who at times hate the dependency of nursing. They'd like sometimes to be able to mix up a bottle and hand baby off for just one feeding.
I know moms who've never tried breastfeeding and turned straight to formula, and I know moms who are still breastfeeding their toddlers. I support the decisions I've watched my friends and family make with their children. But I'm ridiculously hard on myself for this shortcoming as a mom, for what my body just won't do, for something that I have no control over.
I'm working through this every day and trying to give myself a break.

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