My daughter isn’t even two weeks old I can safely say I’ve already experienced my first guilt trip from strangers and myself. I’m referring to how my daughter is being fed. She is a formula baby. Some may be disapproving and others may not even bat an eyelash. I cared though. I’d waited my whole pregnancy in anticipation to not only meet my daughter but to try breastfeeding. I’d read all about the benefits for mother and baby. Not only about the benefits but the bonding that would occur between them. I knew that I wanted to have that with my daughter. However life is a beach and this was an experience that I would not have. Being a NICU mom you can have a relationship with a breast pump. One thing that all of these stories I was reading left out was what to expect if you’re a NICU mom. All of those biological responses and triggers from the baby crying and your body responding are lost over the sounds of beeping machines. While I was recovering in the Mother Baby Unit of the hospital I used their equipment to try and produce milk for my little girl. Production was slow and they were having to supplement with formula. To be successful at breastfeeding I needed to pump 8 times a day and twice at night. I was having to set an alarm for every two hours to have a date with a pump.
On the third day once I was home I felt a rage boiling in me. I stared at all the equipment in front of me and I wanted it all to burn in the fiery pits of hell. I surprised myself with just how angry I was at the pump and breastfeeding equipment. I resented all the advice I was reading because I didn’t have my daughter to cry and alert me. My anger morphed into sadness that I could feel down to my core. Not only that but every time I would pump I would feel extremely faint afterwards. That day I took a good hard look at what I was attempting to do, what I was actually doing, and how it was affecting me. Here’s what I found that day.
Attempting: To pump breast milk for my daughter because myself and others had told me that was best. She needed me to do that.
Reality: Pumping very little and becoming closed off. My daughter was not starving.
Effect: I was making myself sick. My emotions were everywhere. I resented myself for being weak and unfit as a mother.
After I really evaluated the situation. I decided to stop using the pump. My daughter may be in the NICU, but I didn’t need to torture myself for no reason. I realized that now more then ever I needed to have all my strength to take care of myself, Alix, and our daughter. There was no reason to add more stress into that equation then was already there. Alix was supportive of my decision. Much like with the choice to have the epidural the resistance came more from me then from us as a couple. Alix knew that she would be fed and was just worried about my mental and physical well being.
It was hard enough for me to come to the decision and to tell Alix. The next challenge was going to be telling the doctors.
I was firm with my decision. I knew in my heart of hearts that choosing NOT to breast feed was truly the best thing for my family. However this did not make it any easier when a tactless doctor reduced me to tears almost demanding to know why I had chosen to stop breastfeeding. This guy was a piece of work. I didn’t owe him an explanation. I didn’t want to go through all the reasons it was affecting me physically and not to mention emotionally. Some may say choosing not to breastfeed isn’t that big of a deal. Perhaps in the grand scheme of things they’re right. That wasn’t the case for me at that moment though. The idea of breast feeding was very entangled into my emotional health and my relationship with my daughter. I was beating the crap out of myself mentally for letting my daughter down and letting this perfect bonding experience slip out of my hands.
It’s been almost two weeks since I’d decided not to breast feed. The past week is when I really became okay with my decision and can talk about the reasons I chose what I did without crying. My fear of missing a bonding experience with a daughter was for not. I feel very connected to my daughter every time I hold her or look at her face. I’m happy that Alix is able to help with feedings and that I’m not the sole supplier of food for her. I also know that as the weeks, months, and years go by it will matter less and less that she was formula fed. As long as she is healthy everything will be a-okay.
I really wanted to share my experience because it may help some other mother in the same or similar situation. Just know that it is not easy no matter what you choose. People will want to know why you chose what you did and if you’re like me you’ll want to tell them to f*ck off and take their judgements with them (at least for the first little bit). That is okay and those feelings will pass. I never realized how emotional that choice would be and even if someone had tried to tell me I probably wouldn’t have believed them. As I mentioned before I just wanted to share my experience with you. I’ll end this post with saying take care of yourself. I realized that my family needs me to be as strong as possible, and yours does too.