Monday, March 16, 2009

Be Careful What You Wish For

I had two goals for my maternity leave: 1) Get baby to breastfeed well and, 2) Get baby to sleep through the night. Check, check. I felt that if I accomplished those two goals, and bathed her occasionally, we would really be on our way.

The Girl is a rested, chubby-cheeked, darling baby and I couldn't be happier.


It isn't always easy.

This article from the Today Show website sums up some of the ambivalence I feel about breastfeeding. The author talks about the mommy-scorn she got when she contemplated, out loud, quitting breastfeeding after her maternity leave. With her third child. After 28 months of breastfeeding in total!

She (correctly) describes the inconclusive medical literature about the benefits of breastfeeding. While there are likely certain benefits, the magnitude of that benefit is often overstated.

There is so much societal pressure to breastfeed and I never really considered it an option. It was a necessity. While I wouldn't trade the experience and I really value the cuddle time, that isn't to say that I don't let Girly sleep for 5 more minutes on occasion because I'm just not quite ready to sit tethered to her on the couch for half an hour. Or that I don't occasionally begrudge my husband for trotting off to do something when I need to be home to feed her.

The other interesting point the author makes is that breastfeeding has become an extension of "super-parenting". Baby Mozart. The best preschool. Harvard, damn it. You wouldn't dare do something that would jeopardize your child's future, would you? We are so fortunate that our daughter has the opportunity to grow up in a household with two loving parents, four loving grandparents, and countless supportive friends and family members. I believe it is those factors, more than anything else, that will contribute to her bright future. (And, she will go to Harvard, in case you were wondering).

We are educated parents (or, at least, I would like to think so). We made the decision, together, that breastfeeding would be the best option for our family. Here is where it gets tricky, though. By nature, or habit, or both, mothers take on the role of Primary Care Giver. Especially OCD-mom's like myself. Breastfeeding fosters that role. You are the one that feeds the child? Then you must be the one that best comforts that child. Or best burps that child. Or best sucks the boogers out of that child. If you aren't careful, you will be the "best" at everything and you are left doing everything. This is a two-way street. It may be easy for Dad or Significant Other to defer to the breastfeeding Mom, but it is also easy for the breastfeeding Mom to feel that her way is the best way.

At 14 weeks of parenthood, I am trying to let go of the little things. It isn't easy for me. Different doesn't mean worse. If I always do it, I can't complain because I didn't give anyone else the opportunity. And when someone else tries to help, I can't critique if it isn't my way, as long as the Girl is happy and healthy.

So, as I sit here pumping for the first of three (or more) times today, I feel lucky. Lucky that I had the choice to breastfeed. Lucky that I have an education and work in a place that allows me the freedom to pump. Lucky that our daughter is healthy and growing.

So, for now, Mr. Medela and I will continue with our intimate relationship.

For how long? I'm not sure. It may be that my OCD-nature is contributing ... when I begin to think about the possibility of formula, and then perseverate over the possibility that she may be gassy, or have an allergy, or god knows what, I just stop.

It is working.

For now.

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