Monday, May 9, 2011
Major Mommy Decisions
It's a funny thing...when I was pregnant, I read/heard/was told A MILLION times that no matter how much reading or listening I did, I would NEVER be prepared for what was about to happen to me. I brushed these comments aside. "Pshaw...I know all about babies."
And really, caring for Gabe has been easy. I don't find the baby stuff scary.
What has really thrown me for a loop is the mommy guilt.
I had in my mind that things would go a certain way. That I would take an approach to parenting that would always involve doing the absolute best thing for the baby, regardless of my personal sacrifice.
Well, lemme tell ya'- that went right out the window during labor, when I made the (awesome) decision to get an epidural. Gabe's birth would have been an extremely different and much less pleasant experience for me had I remained drug-free. (Truth be told, I'm pretty sure I would have died. 25 hours of labor is a llooonnnggg time, friends.)
I faced my next hurdle when we brought baby home. I had lovingly set up a beautiful cradle in our bedroom where the babe could sleep. This cradle was built in 1841, and has been in our family ever since. I ordered a new custom mattress and sheets (as there was no such thing as "standard size" in 1841), I polished the wood, I placed a sweet teddy bear inside, awaiting baby's arrival.
And then the moment came when we finally had our baby with us and could place him in his lovely bed.
Then the crying started. And didn't stop. Not until I picked Gabe up and brought him into bed with us. And there he remained.
This wasn't how I saw things going! I was nervous about having him in bed with us, and not just due to the fear of suffocation. I didn't want to have him rely on being next to us to sleep! As much as I loved him snuggling up to me (he would scoot, scoot, scoot himself until he was right up against me...it was beyond precious), I was afraid that if we started out this way, we would end up with a 4-year old in our bed every night. Plus, babies are supposed to sleep in cradles/baskets/bassinets, right? Whenever anyone would ask where he was sleeping, I would hang my head in shame and mutter that he was in the bed with us.
Then I realized that I had two choices...put the baby in his cradle, and nobody would sleep, hence everybody is unhappy? Or put the baby in the bed with us, and everybody sleeps, hence everybody is happy.
When I put it to myself that way, it was a no brainer.
But when Gabe was three weeks old, I happened to notice that he actually seemed to like being in his crib. Yes, his big boy crib in his very own big boy bedroom. I occasionally laid him there during the day so I could run and fetch something from another room or go to the bathroom. You know, whenever I needed two free hands. So I thought that maybe he would actually sleep there.
So we tried it...and it worked.
Again, this was not how things were supposed to go! I imagined him in our room for the first few months! Who puts a 3-week old baby in the big crib in his own room? This mama, that's who. Of course, I hated it the first night, and I cried when I left him alone. But this had solved the dilemma of having the baby in the bed with us. He was actually sleeping elsewhere, and I realized that it was a good thing.
Several weeks passed without any mommy guilt. Then the BIG dilemma arose. The feeding dilemma.
Through all of my reading and preparing for baby, one of the hottest topics I came across was the breastfeeding debate. Of course, everyone knows that "breast is best," but for a multitude of reasons, some women choose not to breastfeed. And God help those woman if a breastfeeding fanatic should get a hold of them.
I was told once to set short-term goals when it came to nursing. After all, it's not an easy thing to do. So if you set huge goals, you may be setting yourself up to fail. It may seem impossible, and therefore, easy to give up.
I will admit- I did not take this advice. At first, I thought that I'd like to get through six months. Then I thought, why not a year? After all, if I never have to spend any money on formula, how great would that be? And really, I can make it though the initial pain...after that, how hard can it be?
Turns out, extremely hard. Breastfeeding was never easy for me. I required assistive devices in order for Gabe to latch on, the pain was horrible, and there were many days that I cried at the sight of the blood...yes, blood...that I pumped along with my milk. But I overcame that. And I was proud.
But even though I had passed that hurdle, I still wasn't loving breastfeeding. Remember how I thought I would just love pregnancy? Well, I didn't. I also thought I would love nursing, but as it turns out, not so much. I'm not positive what was really going on...maybe I wasn't patient enough, or maybe my body just wasn't doing all that it needed to...but in the end...we introduced formula.
Gabe would nurse for up to an hour at a time (!) and then act hungry again within an hour. I was also trying to pump in between feedings so that J could help with the occasional feeding, and so that I would have milk stored up when I went back to work. Talk about exhausting. I felt like I was topless way more often than I was fully clothed. And all this may have been worth it if my baby seemed content and satisfied for longer than 20 minutes at a time.
The nights were what got us, I think. Gabe would be up every hour and a half, wanting to nurse. I'd fall into bed and pass out afterward, only to be awakened by his cries twenty minutes later. And I just couldn't take it anymore.
I fed him that first bottle of formula with a heavy heart, feeling a little bit like I had failed. But then he slept. For a solid three hours.
It's been just over a week now, and the guilt has faded. I've come to realize that Mommy's mental well-being plays such an important role in my family life. Not to mention the fact that I feel like I have a new baby on my hands. He just seems happier, and for longer periods of time. AND THE BOY SLEEPS! For 6 hour stretches! I feel like the little guy may have just been hungry all too often before this! Bottle feeding is this mama's new best friend.
I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. I am still pumping every three hours, so Gabe is still getting breast milk for about half of his feedings. But when there isn't enough breast milk, then formula it is. It's not what I envisioned when I started this journey, but it is what it is. And that's okay.
I'm sure this will not be the last decision I make that will cause me to feel some mommy guilt. But I'm trying to embrace the mantra "If Mama's not happy, NOBODY'S happy." Because it's true. I've learned that sometimes what is "best" isn't always what makes for a happy mama, a happy baby, or a happy family. And in the long run? Gabe will be F.I.N.E. And we'll be happy. And that's really what matters.