No, I wasn’t Mom enough

I’ve watched the past couple of days while the Time cover featuring the hot young mom breast feeding her three year-old has stirred up everything from the popular press to viral media. I’ve read what’s been posted on Facebook, read a couple of amusing mommy blogs and actually took the time to read today’s paper. I’ve tried to stay like Switzerland on the topic (which if you know me is really hard. I do try and stay away from sex, religion and politics when I write, but it does sneak in there sometimes), but honestly, I no longer can. The whole thing bugs me.

Let me begin by getting one thing straight- I think breastfeeding is incredibly important for both mother and child. And, if I hadn’t worked full-time, I may have gravitated towards the attachment parenting style, because I often found my sick child in my bed and felt that’s where she needed to be. But, since I couldn’t wear my baby to work (and I had to work), I made the tough decision of finding another loving mother to help me during the day (and yes, that was painful).

But, the most painful part of being a brand new mom for me (and this is where the Time cover hit a nerve), is the fact that I wasn’t Mom enough. When I read the header, it was a slap across my face. To me, it pointed out my inadequacy as a mother- I was unable to breast feed my child.

I was the kind of mom that was ready to breastfeed before my child was born. I had the lactation consultant ready to come to the hospital when I delivered and had already rented a pump in case I needed a little help to produce. Unfortunately, Rosie came into the world in a traumatic way. My water had been broken for almost two weeks (yes, no one listened to me when I went to the doctor), my labor was long and arduous and once the Rosebud entered the world she rapidly started losing weight.

It was a heartbreaking decision to begin to tube feed but medically neccessary

I left the hospital breast feeding but my severely jaundiced child needed more milk than I could initially produce, so I made the difficult decision to tube feed and give her some formula until she was well. And, in the meantime, I pumped and waited for the day when my baby would latch on. She never did. Two weeks later, I made the painful decision to introduce my baby to her first bottle. I knew I’d never get her back on my breast, but I was doing the next best thing- I decided to pump for the year.

Long story short, I pumped for seven months until my doctor told me I needed to stop for my health (I have serious asthma and needed to go back on medication). When I stopped, we had two full freezers of milk at our house and our neighbors had half their deep freeze filled with bags of milk as well. The only formula my child ever had was when she was a few weeks old. I transitioned her from breast milk in a bottle to milk in a cup at one.

One of three, very full freezers

The Time cover hit a nerve for me this week for two reasons and yes, the first was the headline. No, I wasn’t able to technically breastfeed so does that make me less of a mom? I don’t think so. Honestly, I think it made me tougher.

Do you know how difficult it is to pump every single day for seven months? Not only do you have to take the time to express the milk but you also have to feed. It took me twice as long as a breastfeeding mom. And, it was a helluva lot more inconvenient as I wasn’t able to pull my shirt over and feed my child. And, then there’s the small fact that I missed out on all the intimacy of breastfeeding.

That’s where the cover really got me. Attachment parenting is about the connection to the child. Seeing the cover with the toddler standing on the stool looking like he could have been standing at a soda machine shooting the stream in his mouth really got me. Because that’s not what breastfeeding is all about.

It’s about the part of motherhood that I never got to experience. Except for a couple of weeks when I struggled to try, I never had the physical and emotional connection you get when you breastfeed a baby. Feeding for us was always a challenge. It was always work ( In the first year alone, we went through eight different types of bottles to find a nipple that Rosie could suck. Because she was sick, it was really a struggle) And, it was never as simple as pulling Rosie close to me and feeling the connectedness that comes from breastfeeding.

Needless to say, I won’t be reading the Time article. I’m not interested to read about “extreme” parenting (isn’t all parenting extreme? Aren’t we all just trying to survive). And, don’t even get me started on the choice of mom on the cover (not that I have anything against blogger Jamie Grumet), but couldn’t they have at least found a mom that looks more like an average one?

 

 

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About debcb

All Deb wanted to do was work, until she had Rosie. For the past decade, she's juggled a full-time career, high-profile volunteer work and mommyhood.

Comments

  1. Heather says:

    I ended up having to pump for a multitude of reasons and I know you understand what a pain that is. I tried everything to make nursing work but unfortunately it didn’t. The most important thing to me was that my son received breast milk so I pumped for 11 months. Around 8 months my supply began to decrease and we had to supplement with formula (that was a struggle in itself since he wouldn’t take it for the longest time). If there is one thing I have learned from being a mom, it’s you have to do what’s best for your family. Making sure mama and baby are happy are the most important thing no matter how you get their i.e.breastfeeding, formula, disposables, cloth diapers, the list could go on and on.

    • Yes, it was hard, but you know what I had a great support system and I was determined. I didn’t want my child to have my terrible allergies. And, yes, raising a happy and healthy child should be everyone’s goal.

  2. THANK YOU! I have not been able to find the words (at least without a flood of tears) to write my “breastfeeding” journey on my own blog…but it’s darn close to yours! My son was born at 35 weeks via c-section as I’d been in labor for 3 days and never got past a 4. As soon as I could sit up (24 hours after birth) I started pumping. I would pump every 3 hours for 30 minutes and my husband or I would take it down to NICU for him. He had special formula for the first few days and was completely formula free for the remainder of his 2 week NICU stay. I pumped continually (even when going back to work briefly) until he was 7 months old. When I stopped producing enough for him I bawled for about 3 days non-stop. I already felt like a failure for never being able to actually bf, but now I really felt awful! Little did I know I was pregnant again.

    When my second son was born (2 weeks early and only 13 months after my first) it was another c-section (same lack of progression before he turned breech). They brought him to be in recover, helped him latch and we had a touch and go relationship from there. The first 24 hours I nursed virtually non-stop. He rarely ate much and I often had to syringe feed him to start (I was also pumping a bit during this time to help my milk come in). After 3 days, he was eating ALL THE TIME…but mostly from a syringe. He would latch on for one good feed a day (at night) and that was it. We avoided a bottle for the first week, but it was too much for me to think about pumping, trying to bf, and care for my 13 month old once my husband went back to work. So I made the excruciating decision to go back to pumping. I only made it 5 months before his hunger outweighed my production (pumping was very difficult to get in with two needy children). Thank you for speaking out for others!

    I felt like such a failure every time I fixed a bottle and you are ABSOLUTELY right…it takes at least twice as long to pump, then feed, then store the rest, then repeat. I felt like all I was doing all day was feeding children. Anyway, thank you for speaking out. This cover has been something I’ve been trying to avoid as much as possible the last few days b/c it’s so painful :(. Thanks!

  3. THANK YOU!! This issue of TIME has been sitting on a table in the break room at work and upsets me everytime I see it. Breastfeeding wasnt in the cards for me and no one can tell me I’m less of Mom for now doing it.

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