When Fin first went to daycare, she wasn't taking a bottle. To say that it was stressful is an understatement. I had heard for a few moms in the past that their babies never took a bottle, but I just figured they weren't trying hard enough- surely babies will drink it if they have to, right?! But OH, how we tried. We tried every bottle, technique and trick in the book, and she just wasn't having it. Returning back to work, I was desperate to feel comfortable leaving her all day, but beyond that I was also struggling with my role as a mom to an exclusively (and I mean exclusively) breastfed baby. Since then, we've come out the other side, and she now drinks from a bottle like a champ (something only babies and college freshman typically brag about) but the road to this point wasn't easy. We're now finding more and more balance as Fin grows and becomes ever so slightly more independent, and though we still don't have it all figured out, I'm intensely grateful for the road we've traveled (even when it was bumpy) and for the lessons we've learned along the way.
------------------------------------Originally Written September 26th, 2013 in a Facebook message to my "Book Club" (quotes used, because those ladies have become much, much more than reading companions to me. They listen to my rants, dole out wise advice, and forgive me when I never actually read the book assignment.)
Okay here's the deal- Fin still isn't taking a bottle. Well...not that she won't take it at all...she just hates it, and cries and refuses it much of the time. While I'm at work, she should eat three times, around 4 ounces each time. Her personal best so far is half of that, and about one ounce increments are typical. So she's not flat out starving, but she's closer to it than I'd prefer. Now, she is trying, and is getting better but still I have no confidence when I leave her that she will eat until I return. It's so hard leaving a baby to go back to work, but I've always comforted myself by reminding myself that she'll be well cared for while I'm gone. That she'll be fed, held, and loved. What am I supposed to tell myself now? "Two outta three ain't bad?"
The daycare ladies say she's happy during the day. Sure, she cries, but no more than a typical baby. So if she eats just enough to take the edge off, and then I feed her when I get home, great. However, this isn't really feasible if I ever want to go anywhere other than work. It's one thing to leave your baby all day because you have to, it's another to want to do another optional activity afterwards. So if there is a work trip? I can't take it. If there's a happy hour? I don't go. Night out with friends? Nope. Basically I have a hall pass to go to work, and nothing else. No one is specifically telling me that. But I feel to leave a hungry and struggling baby is selfish, and I can't get over the guilt of leaving her voluntarily after being gone so long already.
Maybe she'll get the hang of it soon and I'll be able to come and go as I please. And maybe not and it'll be until she's six months, or a year before I get to go anywhere, including date nights with my husband. I know that eventually her eating schedule will lengthen out, and solids will start to fill in some of the gaps too, so I won't be needed every two or three hours, but it's still stressful to feel that there's no real backup plan, unless I'm around. And frankly, I'm not worried about six months, I'm worried about today, and tomorrow, and the next day. I know I should have some sort of perspective that this too shall pass, especially as a second-time mom, and I do, but right now it hasn't passed and I need to figure out how to deal with my "now".
Extra layer of drama: I'm not only resentful of my current role, but I'm jealous of my husband. Because as long as I'm the sole baby food provider, Dustin is free to do as he pleases. He is the most helpful and giving man I've ever known, and an incredibly involved father, so I'm not actually complaining (me? Never!), but – if he wants to play on the worship team? Yep. If he has an office outing? Sure. Basically he can do anything he wants to do unless I step in as the naggy wife and say no. I don't want to prevent him from having a life outside of work and baby-duty, but I also resent him when it seems that I'm tied down and he's not. (What's that saying about misery loving company?)
Ugh. That was a lot. And I don't know that any one has an actual solution. And I don't know that I actually want a solution. Well, except for her taking a bottle. That would be great.
---------------------And my response to one particularly wise and caring lady's comments:
Thank you so much for your message. I've been thinking about it and actually... think it's good for me to nurse my babies because it ties me to them. Obviously, of course. But I tend to be someone who can be a little too self-sufficient, and self-centered, even as a mom. If bottles, or especially formula, were an option, I might be too quick to bail when it got tough. Too quick to pawn them off on Dustin, or anyone willing, really. I love those girls more than anything, but I still have a huge attachment to MY life and MY wants and MY needs.
It's possible that God is teaching me something here. Ok. It's not possible. It's certain. It's possible though, that I'm actually learning something. He knows me and my heart, and He knows that I need my babies to need me. I would never neglect them or harm them, but I'm also not naturally inclined to sacrifice to this level. But serving as the sole food source for my babies is serving them. I'm forced to bond with them- wholly and completely- and there is a part of me that goes beyond enduring that burden, and actually loves it. I've loved nursing Fin, more than I did Piper even. And for all my complaining, I would actually be pretty devastated if she took to the bottle so well that she preferred that to me. When Piper was born, she changed my life forever, but I was still able to keep a good portion of my own identity and routines intact. I still made "me time" a priority, and worked like a dog, even while giving myself fully to being a mom as well. Now with Fin, I've found I've had to shake up my priorities. I'm not able to "do it all". I'm forced to make tough choices. Deny myself. Take up my cross daily. And that's a good thing. I think I need a non-negotiable in my life to force me to prioritize what matters. God is showing me where I need to be. I'm hard headed enough that He knows I have to learn things the hard way- or have my choices taken away so my only option is what He would have me do. I guess I'm thankful for that, even though it's hard. Because if things were my way, I might lie to myself that my girls are in good hands and don't need me. That's half true- they are in good hands- but they do desperately need me- Fin especially. And I need to make myself available for that, even if it's hard, and requires me to set aside my current wants, for the collective good. In this season, I'm learning what it means to be a mom first, and all other things second.
It's so crazy to think that God is tough-loving me through a teeny tiny, wide-eyed bundle of baby...but He is. I've said it before, but this kid is changing me, and I'm so thankful for it. Well...I'm frustrated by it. But I'm also thankful for it.
God is using this baby to teach me, and better me, and he's using you to teach me and encourage me. And hopefully He's using me for something too... What a beautiful spot to be.
It should almost go without saying, but please allow to me to be clear, that no part of this should be taken as a criticism or judgement of anyone who chooses a different path for feeding their babies. Formula isn't evil any more than breastfeeding is saintly. I only know my situation, my baby and my heart. Thus, this is solely a reflection on our journey with breastfeeding- a tough one at times, but one I am thankful for.