Bittersweet

I’m both looking forward to, and dreading, my first glass of wine.

It will taste bitter. It will taste of tears, of guilt, of regret.

It will taste of defeat.

That first glass was supposed to be raised in a toast, to accomplishing birthing my perfect, and last, child. It was to be had in celebration.

Today, we decided to stop breastfeeding. Hibou isn’t built for it, and neither am I. She has a tied tongue, and we’ve decided not to have it fixed surgically. And me, I’ve got unusually slow letdown, due to my brain chemistry. The two combined mean that nursing would require continued superhuman efforts to sustain, not just for myself, but for Hibou too – and we would still have to supplement about two thirds of her diet. And it would guarantee that my current precarious mental state during this time of hormonal recalibration would be at serious risk.

I don’t know if we’re at the point where we’ve tried hard enough, or long enough. I will never know, and I will likely always wonder. What I do know is that we’re at the point where the costs of breastfeeding far outweigh the benefits, and we’re not just risking doing harm to mom or baby – we actually are, to both.

I’m devastated.

It’s not just that breastfeeding seems like this beautiful, sacred thing that has been stolen from me – it’s that it’s my disease’s fault. And therefore, in my heart of hearts, mine.

Would I change my brain chemistry if I could? If it meant not being an artist anymore? Not being the kind of creative parent that can just barely stay one step ahead of Bonhomme?

I soothed both my children to sleep tonight, using my brain, my body, my love, my words, my breath – but not my breasts.

I have a few days of pumping to face, to help alleviate the engorgement as I wean. For me, in this situation, it turns this beautiful, warm, nurturing, sacred act into factory farming. It reminds me only of what I can’t do, what I can’t have. Along with this, I will have another hormone crash to survive, on top of the post-birth load that I am still processing. It will mean some more days of tears and torture.

I know Hibou is just fine with this bottlefeeding plan – it will allow me to give her more of myself, not less. It’s my complicated, guilt-ridden, ridiculously illogical feelings about my mental health that aren’t so fine.

Switching from breast to bottle gives us the gift of time. Hibou will need my cuddles even more, but I will be able to give them while sitting in the sun reading, while holding her in a sling while doing chores or playing with Bonhomme, while doing a puzzle and allowing my body to recover from surgery. It will let us both sleep more at night. Soon, it will give me the freedom to go out with Hibou, to walk and regain my strength, to do all the things my non-medication approach to my mental health requires. It will allow me to enjoy life, to enjoy Hibou, to have the fullest experience of motherhood that is available to me.

I will try to find some sweetness in that glass of wine. Some earthiness, some complexity, some body and weight, some subtle nuances. I will look for a balanced bouquet, flavour, length, feel.

It will taste of acceptance.

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5 comments so far

  1. Nanci on

    I have worked with kids and youth for many years and I can honestly say not one of them has ever said “if only my mother had breastfed me”. However, many say to me how they wish their mother loved them, cared for them and were open to accepting them for all they could be.” Luckily you will be one of those mothers that will be forever in love with the child you were given and for that, your children will be forever blessed.

    • mindofgrace on

      Thank you. That means a lot, coming from you.

  2. Lynn on

    I agree – you’ve done all you could, and really, going to the bottle isn’t the mothering failure that the media makes it out to be sometimes. It’s the right choice for your family, and that’s what’s important. Enjoy that glass of wine, because your daughter sounds like an absolute peach and you’ve created something beautiful.

  3. moosilaneous on

    Awwww…

    How do I type that to make this sound like the sympathy it is, and not any kind of disappointment?

    You have done what you needed to do, and more, and Hibou gets the best thing: nourishment and a sane mama. Sure, it wasn’t your first plan, but haven’t we, together, learned that first plans are not all they’re made out to be?
    I send you all my love, and know that in the great scheme of things, all is well. Really, really well. Drink deeply.

    • mindofgrace on

      I am deeply disappointed. But each time I pump, and count down the minutes, and sessions left, I tell myself over and over that no, I shouldn’t keep this up. I could, you see. I could drive myself crazy pumping an inhuman amount until Hibou’s 3 months old, as I did with Bonhomme. But, no. The 3+ hours a day that would take, to produce at most 1/4 of her diet, with that time spent away from my family, away from reading to my kids or helping my husband sterilize bottles, or plain old sleeping, doesn’t justify it. Plus, I’ve developed an intense dislike of the pump, a resentment and anger and sense of sullen inadequacy that I never felt when pumping for Bonhomme. Probably because then, I had zeal. I was determined. I didn’t have my relationship with my older child at stake. I thought this was what all good mothers did, drive themselves literally bananas providing. I have no zeal left. Hopefully it’s been replaced by sense rather than just plain old giving in to futility.


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