My mom and I had an intimate conversation recently about how motherhood changes over time. Perspectives broaden, little things really don’t matter as much, and things that you once couldn’t stand become things you crave.
I breastfed my firstborn until he was thirteen months old. I hated every second of it. I breastfed my second child for four months. Really hated it too, but was resigned to it. I had a lot of conversations with my mom and sister about wanting to love it, but really just doing it as a service to the kids. My mom shared how her perspective had changed through a series of events, both good and bad. She started off hating it for kid one and two, and by kid five, it was her favorite thing! My sister started off hating it at kid one, and ended hating it at kid four. I figured I’d be more like my sister, because I could NOT see myself ever enjoying it, unless something drastic happened.
Something drastic did happen. At four months postpartum, my milk started waning. I couldn’t make enough. I have come to realize that my depression was causing it to decline. It dropped off quickly, and the less milk I made, the less my daughter wanted it! Eventually, she outright refused it, screamed constantly, and we switched to bottle feeding. We tossed around the idea of seeking help for the matter, but the pros of bottle feeding really appealed to me. The stress of finding a consultant, making time to correct the problem and pumping more did NOT appeal to me. My daughter was becoming a great sleeper, loved the bottle, it made it easier for me to be away from her, and I didn’t have to endure sticky milk all over me, sore breasts, being on a timer, and feeling like a cow… So my milk pretty much dried up. I went on my way for a while… I didn’t mind the bottle feeding so much. I was really preoccupied with life. At four months, coinciding with my milk drying up, I began having steady panic attacks. My anxiety got so much worse.
I still didn’t really mind switching. It was inconsequential to me. What I wanted was to enjoy my life again. That meant I needed to control it. I needed her to take bottles so I didn’t have to spend as much time feeding her, so that I could have more time to myself to get everything under control. I needed to be able to be away from her whenever my needs arose. To enjoy my life, I just knew I needed to control it. Breastfeeding my baby wasn’t enjoyable to me. How could I enjoy something that made me feel so without control? I wasn’t going to live with the anxiety, so I needed to control my life, get the anxiety out, and then I could get back to living. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I basically ALLOWED the anxiety to control me. I wasn’t in control like I thought… I thought I quit breastfeeding because I was in control. But in reality, I quit breastfeeding because the anxiety was in control. It dictated my choices. I had this mentality that I needed to stop life for a bit to regroup. Life doesn’t work that way…
You don’t get to stop life. Instead, you fall away from your life and it goes on without you. All of the sudden, my daughter is ten months. She is as independent as they come. She’s no worse for wear even though she was bottle fed! She’s smart, fierce, independent, healthy, and tries her hardest to keep up with the toddler. Bottle feeding/breastfeeding—your child is getting fed. THAT is what matters.
But for me, bottle feeding became a symbol of my control. I wasn’t going to allow anything I didn’t want to happen to me or my life. I didn’t like breastfeeding, oh well, guess I will just bottle feed instead of taking the hard road to build up my supply again. I didn’t like the anxiety in my day to day, so I was going to ignore its presence and get my life together BY MYSELF, instead of taking the hard road of working THROUGH the challenges. By the way, trying to work through my anxiety alone basically looked like avoidance, spontaneity and a lack of maturity. It didn’t help.
Now, I really have changed my perspective. I really crave breastfeeding. I really embrace the lack of control, because I never could control it anyway. I’ve learned a reliance on God’s care of me. Breastfeeding could have actually helped my anxiety too. If I had stopped trying to control my life, who knows where I would be right now. I know I have a control problem though… And I have a hard time giving myself over to God, my kids, and my husband. I want to do better in the future. And you know what, if I am ever blessed with another child, I can feel the desire in my heart to sit, rock, nurse and bask in the goodness of God.
(I say none of this to start the ridiculous breastfeeding/bottle-feeding war, so if you’re on the hunt to fight on the internet, there are much better places to look.)