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venting, mostly

Yesterday was a horrible day. Matei screamed for about 5 hours solid (I think it's teeth again) and refused to sleep unless I was holding him and WOULD NOT BE PUT DOWN. I currently have a sprained muscle in my shoulder from catering to that demand, so you can imagine how much I'm looking forward to carrying him around today.

It was awful. I haven't had a day that bad in months. I held my shit together, more or less, until 6 o'clock when Z was due home and when I learned that Z was stuck in a traffic jam my shit fell apart in a rather spectacular way. With jazz hands! And fireworks! (The highlight may have been putting my child down and leaving him to scream while I walked away to engage in such soothing activites as deep breathing and banging my head against the wall.) I ended up walking vacant eyed in aimless circles holding my baby and sobbing in big gushy sobs which strangely enough made Matei quiet and contemplative. I think I may try it again. It was quite soothing.

And then a bad night followed a bad day and the sight of a grinning cooing baby at 3am made my head full of #####&^&*(###'s and thank god there are two parents in this household is all I will say because I was ready to give him up for adoption.

Nothing hits to the core of me quite like the sleep thing, because you know, I thought we'd got over that. He has pretty much been sleeping solidly through the night, and while the fact that babies his age are meant to sleep from 7pm until 7am is a concept he scoffs at, sleep from 9pm until 5:30is am is actually pretty ok by me. And I get slightly hysterical when he doesn't sleep because I am transported into the Bad Old Days commonly known as months 0-3 whose broken nights still make me break out in PTSD symptoms.

And then there's today, when the child is engaged in his number 2 nap with minimal assistance from me. Babies! They are weird! And unpredictable! I think it's a design flaw.

Breastfeeding has always been a kind of controversial issue with me, because as part of my job I was pretty much required to promote it and many people seem to feel very strongly about it so I've pretty much kept my trap shut. But you know, if you can't talk about your experiences on your journal, then where can you? And I should be allowed to talk about them because my experiences are as valid as everyone else's and seeing them reduce TEH GUILTS of anyone in the same situation then that's another reason to put them out there.

Back at work I used to get exposed to alot of the Mama Drama of the kind that arises from people who disagree with each other's parenting decisions and few of the things could spark lively aggressive feelings quicker than the whole breastfeeding thing. I've always been amused and irritated in equal measure by that, just as I have been by promotional breastfeeding materials that I had thrust at me while I was pregnant and that I distributed myself as part of my job.

Personally I've always been a bit skeptical about all the supposed health benefits (because my exclusively breastfed babies still suffered from intensive stomach problems, and allergies, and reflux and colic). I was delighted that I could breastfeed, I was delighted at his good progress and my rapid weight loss the first six weeks, but mostly my somewhat conflicted and angry feelings about the breastfeeding issue make me want to clutch the promotional materials and smack them on the head of the next bright eyed person who talks to me about breastfeeding on demand.

Because nothing has ruined the quality of my life quite as quickly and as thoroughly as breastfeeding on demand and the upshot is that it didn't even work. The end results were that my baby when presented with the option of feeding whenever and wherever he fancied acted much as I would if someone placed neatly arrayed platefuls of proscioutto sandwiches and meze 24/7 and wanted to feed ALL THE TIME. The end result was a demanding, unsettled child and a very frustrated and resentful mother.

Life became significantly better when Z and I consolidated our efforts in order to brave the screaming, attempt to distract the baby and push feeds 2.5 hours apart. My life got even better when with help of grandma and some water in a bottle we taught him not to eat at night. And my life is a thousand times better again now, that I am weaning him.

I don't know why I hung in there breastfeeding for as long as I have. I think it is because I was partially determined to prove something, and partially because Matei's already present issues with allergies and crippling stomach pains made me afraid those would be exacerbated by formula. But mostly I think it's because I was an idiot who got guilted into it.

So, to the Promotional Breastfeeding Literature I say:

1)Breastfeeding promotes bonding between mother and child

Sometimes yes. But also not. The role of Milk Slave can be a little demeaning. Also really limiting. And tiring. And when I feel enslaved, and demeaned and so sleep deprived I can barely function I am not a nice person. And I don't want to bond. I don't want to stare deeply into my child's eyes, because a) he ain't looking at nothing but the boob and b) I have already done that 40 times today and right now I would prefer to read or watch television. On the plus side, breastfeeding was pretty much the only guaranteed method in the early days of scoring a leisurly half an hour to browse through a magazine.

2) Breastmilk works through supply and demand, and as long as you are catering to the demand you will increase your supply to match it

Bollocks to that. The end result of me attempting to meet demand was that I ended up being so tired, and unable to eat or drink properly to sustain my own energy reserves, which meant that I was producing much less milk, which meant that I had a hungry and cranky baby who also started losing a lot of weight. Him feeding more did not boost my milk production. It decreased it, because I was tired and cranky myself and apparently my milk glands do not flourish under those circumstances.

(You know what I've found out helps increase supply alot? Having someone else feed my child some puree that he loves, while I have a rest. Or a bath. And some food. Even my child having a sleep when he is full of puree is delightful to everyone and makes me have more milk to give him for his next meal).

I was glad I could feed though. I was glad I had the option. And when I think of how I grew a whole being and then fed him solely through my body I think That's amazing and also Biiology is weird. But I think I would not try nearly as hard a second time. That I would invest much less energy into trotting out my bosoms and start supplementing with formula anytime I felt I was cracking with sleep exhaustion or having diminished milk supply.

I don't feel stupid for having breastfed. I don't feel a failure for admitting defeat and saying 'I am not equal to this task, let me start weaning before the six month mark.' But I do feel stupid for having felt so pressured to keep feeding even when it was clearly not the most effective solution and for having listened to people who said to just keep feeding as often as possible and the whole thing would sort itself out.

Maybe I am the bad kind of mother they warn you about because I accord as much importance to my own needs as I do my child's. But thankfully children are pretty resilient creatures, and I am much less prone to guilt than I was a few years ago. And I believe with the passion and conviction of the sort normally displayed by the strongly religious that honouring your own needs, even when they are paltry and selfish is not a vanity or a luxury, but a necessity.

And that I refuse to be silent about that any longer.

Comments

( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
bopeepsheep
Jun. 4th, 2008 11:23 am (UTC)
right now I would prefer to read or watch television. On the plus side, breastfeeding was pretty much the only guaranteed method in the early days of scoring a leisurly half an hour to browse through a magazine.
I'm glad you added the second sentence there! That's how I got through so many books and magazines and tv programmes and DVDs. I found that sitting on the sofa with biscuits and a remote control was just as comfy with baby attached as without, and at least I didn't feel guilty about not being upright doing something useful because look! baby attached! not able to do housework!. :D
rainsinger
Jun. 11th, 2008 04:42 am (UTC)
:D

In my house since baby has been born housework has only been done when there are at least two adults present meaning mostly on weekends, or not at all. My attempts to vacuum while my son dangles in a sling have not been succesful because the sound of the vacuum terrifies him. So currently that's my excuse.
offensive_mango
Jun. 4th, 2008 11:32 am (UTC)
Maybe I am the bad kind of mother they warn you about because I accord as much importance to my own needs as I do my child's.

On the contrary--I think that makes you a good mother. In my opinion any mother who makes her child her whole life will become a martyr in later life, someone who fiercely loves and fiercely resents her child at the same time. Unhealthy.
rainsinger
Jun. 11th, 2008 04:44 am (UTC)
In my opinion any mother who makes her child her whole life will become a martyr in later life, someone who fiercely loves and fiercely resents her child at the same time.

You are right I think. And the above sentence certainly describes me when I don't have any time or space for myself.
casaubon
Jun. 4th, 2008 12:17 pm (UTC)
the fact that babies his age are meant to sleep from 7pm until 7am is a concept he scoffs at

I haven't had an unbroken night for about 2.5 years...
spoofed
Jun. 4th, 2008 01:05 pm (UTC)
Ha, I don't think there's such a thing as 'meant to sleep' when it comes to babies. Mine is 2 and we still celebrate an entirely unbroken night!
rainsinger
Jun. 11th, 2008 04:47 am (UTC)
The ironies! By the time they are old enough to truly discover the Joy Of Sleep (which is a great and powerful joy as I keep trying to tell my child) they are old enough to be denied it on account of needing to be up for school/job etc.
rainsinger
Jun. 11th, 2008 04:45 am (UTC)
And yet you seem like such a good-humoured well-balanced man. My respect grows.
yiskah
Jun. 4th, 2008 12:54 pm (UTC)
I think that this is an awesome post. I know I keep banging on about this, but I love your take on motherhood.
rainsinger
Jun. 11th, 2008 05:04 am (UTC)
Thank you. I continue to be both flattered and surprised to hear it, but it's very nice.

And I meant to respond to a comment you left elsewhere but my brain is scattered. It's about having children and regretting them. For me having a child wasn't a completely easy decision like "I'm dying of maternal desires, and having a baby is all my body/soul/mind are crying out for" but more "Well the arguement in favour seems to be slightly more weighty than the arguement against, and we want to risk it".

I loved my son from the beginning, and I don't regret him, and haven't since I started sleeping more than 1 hour per night. I think as long as you wanted to have a child and the child hasn't been a product of abuse and isn't followed by postnatal depression then you don't regret the child.

Or at least not until you realise that between the availability of your partner and the salon you need to wait three weeks for a leg wax. ;)
yiskah
Jun. 11th, 2008 11:48 am (UTC)
I think as long as you wanted to have a child and the child hasn't been a product of abuse and isn't followed by postnatal depression then you don't regret the child.

Yeah, I think that every woman I know who has had a child would say the same thing - but it's the sort of thing that it's hard to genuinely understand from this side of the mother/non-mother fence, you know? What concerns me most is that, while I know that EVERYONE's life is turned upside down when they have a child, there are aspects of my life that are hugely important to me (obsessive travel and working in warzones) that would not only have to be compromised if I were to become a mother, but would become completely impossible. I just don't know that I will ever feel ready to make that sacrifice, because as much as I know intellectually that I wouldn't regret having a child, I can't know that emotionally until the deed is done. Does that make sense?

Argh.
mzdt
Jun. 4th, 2008 03:09 pm (UTC)
I carried a four year old for half the Heathrow protest on Saturday, and I can symptahise with the shoulder bit...

otherwise, I'm in awe of you anyway. You back in the UK yet?
rainsinger
Jun. 11th, 2008 04:47 am (UTC)
I am back now!

Let's meet up soon.
x
guihong
Jun. 4th, 2008 03:41 pm (UTC)
Mango is correct. You can use my motto: "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!". Take it from me, if you burn out, it's not good for anyone.

There isn't a mother alive who hasn't put down her screaming kid in his crib and walked into the other room to regain the shards of sanity. And no mother alive who hasn't contemplated adoption (even if just for a second).

gui
rainsinger
Jun. 11th, 2008 04:48 am (UTC)
There isn't a mother alive who hasn't put down her screaming kid in his crib and walked into the other room to regain the shards of sanity. And no mother alive who hasn't contemplated adoption (even if just for a second).


That is so hugely comforting to hear.
prophetsong
Jun. 4th, 2008 03:51 pm (UTC)
Great post! And in that case I refuse to be silent too!

I didn't breastfeed. I didn't even attempt to, not once. My milk didn't make an appearance for 3 weeks after Z was born and having unexpectedly mislaid the father of my child at 7 months pregnant breastfeeding was just one more potential failure I didn't need. Perhaps I would've sailed through it and it would've been the wonderful bonding experience all the propaganda promises. But equally possible is that I would've been turned into the screaming guilt ridden wreck I'd seen friends reduced to by my inability to do something that was supposed to be so natural. Either way I wasn't willing to take the chance and more to the point it was my choice based on what I believed was best for my baby and for me in being his mum and I resent propaganda written by some faceless expert or Charlotte Church or the NbloodyCT trying to make me feel guilty for that. Plus my baby has thrived on formula, I can't imagine being more bonded with him, his weight is perfect and so far only 1 tiny cold in 9 months (touch wood). Oh and I was back to my pre-pregancy size 6 weight within 10 days of giving birth. I wouldn't dream of judging other people's feeding choices and I don't see why they shouldn't return the favour.

Rant over :)
rainsinger
Jun. 11th, 2008 04:49 am (UTC)
I wouldn't dream of judging other people's feeding choices and I don't see why they shouldn't return the favour.

Indeed. :) Because ultimately if the kid is growing and healthy, who cares what he's being fed as long as it's working?
dubaiyan
Jun. 4th, 2008 04:25 pm (UTC)
Just walk away! Do not bang your head against walls!!
rainsinger
Jun. 11th, 2008 04:52 am (UTC)
You speak much sense. But when I've been pushed far and my own sense has abandoned me and run off with Hope and Patience just walking doesn't calm me. I need to do something powerful and physical to let off steam. Like punch something. Or break a plate or two. (I keep some cheap china around for this very purpose)
ex_humanfema327
Jun. 4th, 2008 09:57 pm (UTC)
aw sweetie i didnt know this until just now or i would have had lunch with matei on my own and sent you off clothes shopping xxx
rainsinger
Jun. 11th, 2008 04:53 am (UTC)
No no! I have enough clothes, and not enough money so I don't need shopping, only Romanys.

x
truth_is_not
Jun. 5th, 2008 02:33 am (UTC)
I had a wonderful post typed out and it disappeared!

"Maybe I am the bad kind of mother they warn you about because I accord as much importance to my own needs as I do my child's.".

Going to have to agree with Gui on this one, if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

Just think, years from now when he's a teenager, giving you unmitigated hell (as some teenagers are known to do), you'll look back and think to yourself, "he was such a sweet, easy going, happy go-lucky baby".

It's far better to put him down and walk away while you calm down than other not so good alternatives. Sarah was a colicky, fussy baby, and I can't tell you how many times, I had to put her in her bed and walk out of the house.

You're doing fine and you will continue to do fine as long as you remember that common sense trumps all advice and book learning.
rainsinger
Jun. 11th, 2008 04:55 am (UTC)
Just think, years from now when he's a teenager, giving you unmitigated hell (as some teenagers are known to do), you'll look back and think to yourself, "he was such a sweet, easy going, happy go-lucky baby".


I know! One day you're celebrating their first word, the next day they are using their verbal skillz to tell you to sod off.

You're doing fine and you will continue to do fine as long as you remember that common sense trumps all advice and book learning.

Thank you. That's so comforting to hear and know.
spoofed
Jun. 6th, 2008 01:31 pm (UTC)
When it comes to breastfeeding, I think "if you can, you should". If you have done all that you can, why feel guilty?
rainsinger
Jun. 11th, 2008 04:39 am (UTC)
If you have done all that you can, why feel guilty?

You speak much sense, and I like sense, but the thing with the breastfeeding guilts comes from being told repeatedly by well meaning people and health professionals to just keep feeding him more often since that will increase supply. And it's pretty much presented in a simplistic black and white way that says either directly or through implication that if you don't have enough milk to sustain your kid it means you're not trying hard enough.

( 25 comments — Leave a comment )

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