Due to latching issues and milk supply not being enough, I have given up on breastfeeding. Sometimes I don’t care, but other times, like right now, I feel like a failure as a mother. I mean, this is supposed to be a natural thing. People talk about it like it’s no big deal. But I just couldn’t get my supply high enough and Charlotte and I couldn’t seem to work it out. I was pumping to get her some breast milk, but no matter how often I pumped or how long I pumped for, it was only enough for one or two feedings. We were having to give her formula for so many of them. And pumping was painful and took so long. Plus, it’s hard to get it done when you also have to beware of the baby starting to cry and needing something. I’m struggling with the decision I made to give up on it completely. Charlotte is doing just fine, but I feel like I’m missing out on a very important experience with my daughter and that I’m depriving her of her best chance in life. (There’s just so much research that says that babies who were exclusively breastfed for six months have higher IQs, function better as adults, etc. And the medical field pushes this information at you so much to convince you to breastfeed.) I can’t shake the sadness I feel about it.
Charlotte is developing baby acne. It makes me sad because, even though she’s still a beautiful baby, it looks painful and is spreading. It lightens up and then spreads in intervals. She doesn’t seem bothered by it, but I guess my own insecurities are affecting how I react to it. I still tell her how beautiful she is. Because she is still very beautiful. I know she’s a baby and doesn’t understand what I’m saying, but to criticize her or say something that would make her feel bad about herself as a child or teenager, just seems like an awful thing to do. I want my little girl to know her Daddy and I think she’s gorgeous and that we love and support her. I hope to never say anything that puts her down.
I’m also struggling with my body. I gained a bunch of extra weight while pregnant because I pretty much ate what I wanted when I wanted to. I haven’t lost all that weight yet. My wedding band and engagement ring still don’t fit. I can’t wear my old clothes yet. My stomach used to be small with just a tiny pooch. It was cute. I used to feel self-conscious about it. But now I’m longing for the pre-pregnancy days. I still have hundreds of stretch marks all over my body that are taking their time to lighten (although they have started to do so.) And to top it all off, I’m going through a second puberty with terrible acne. I just do not feel attractive.
Tom has tried to comfort me on all these fronts. He assures me I’m not a bad mom, that Charlotte’s acne will heal up soon, and that I’m still attractive to him. But, as we all know, compliments from our loved ones basically go in one ear and out the other. They have to feel that way. Or at least they have to say they feel that way.
I love my little girl. That’s why I feel so guilty about the breastfeeding. My struggle with that is deeply personal, and I feel incredibly vulnerable admitting to it. But I also felt it was important to talk about it. So many women and so much in the media and medical field make it seem like it’s such an easy thing to do. They tell moms not to feel like failures for not being able to breastfeed, but I don’t know that I would have felt guilty if they hadn’t suggested I might. They also tell moms prior to trying to breastfeed that it’s what is best for the baby, making you feel like you’re hurting your baby when you can’t do it. I want to hide the fact that I wasn’t able to do it. I want to let people believe I’m succeeding at it so they won’t think I’m a bad mom and so I won’t have to admit that I didn’t excel at something I so desperately wanted to be able to do. And with the other things on top of it, I just feel hopeless sometimes.
I want to support other women who are going through similar things. I want to reach out and find other women who were forced by their situations to formula-feed and know that their children turned out well. I want someone to stand up and say “Breastfeeding is hard. It doesn’t come naturally to every woman.” I want other women to read this post and know that it’s tough. It’s not as simple as everyone makes it seem. And I want so badly to not be judged, to not be seen as a failure or someone who didn’t try hard enough.
I guess it’s part of our generation, with all the blogs and information so readily available, to vent about things and search for support online. It’s created something I’ve seen referred to as the “Mommy Wars”, where we all convene on the internet to bash each others’ parenting decisions and dismiss their struggles. Sometimes you find support and sometimes you just open yourself up to a bunch of people who feel superior to you and let you know it. I am so jealous of moms who can breastfeed. I read posts on my birth board about moms who love doing it, who do it for 18 months or more, who bond with their babies and connect in a way that I just can’t connect with my child. It’s still so raw for me that I’m tearing up as I write this. Apart from talking to Tom about it, this blog is actually the first time I’ve admitted to anyone else that I just can’t do it. I am so scared of people knowing, but if every woman tries to hide it like I instinctively wanted to do, then no other women like me would have the support they may want or even need.
So, maybe it sounds a bit egocentric to think that this post may reach out and help other women, but maybe it will. And if it does, then I’ve done something good. I have stepped so far outside of my comfort zone in writing this. I hope that other women don’t have to feel uncomfortable admitting to this struggle in the future and that, maybe one day, there will be at least one less battleground to fight in the Mommy Wars.